Summer Jobs and the National Interest

By Michael McCarry 

Op-Ed | @CENETJ1 #ExchangesImpact

Two recent articles – one in Time magazine and the other on National Public Radio – demonstrate that American students are losing interest in summer jobs.

Time cites data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicating that only 35 per cent of American teenagers actually look for summer jobs, and notes (again BLS stats) that the number of young Americans seeking summer jobs has declined 15 per cent over the past 15 years.  So this is a trend, not an aberration.

Time argues that the decline is mostly about American students’ aspirations for higher education.  As college admission in the U.S. grows more and more competitive, American students increasingly spend their summers on academic enrichment or resume-building activities like internships, organized sports, and volunteering.  Time reports that resort operators have filled the gap with older American workers and international university students, who come to the U.S. through the Department of State’s Summer Work Travel (SWT) program.

NPR agrees that declining interest in summer jobs has to do with college, but arrives at its conclusion via a different path.  The piece makes a persuasive economic case that low wages from a summer resort job no longer make a dent in sharply rising college costs.  Students thus invest their time in activities they perceive to have a higher return, i.e. enhancing their resumes, even if the return isn’t monetary.

The appearance of these articles is timely.  The White House and several federal agencies are working on plans to implement an Executive Order entitled, “Buy American, Hire American.”  A sharp reduction in the Summer Work Travel program is apparently under discussion.

This would be a very serious mistake.

First, as the BLS data show, international students who come to the U.S. on SWT are not displacing Americans.  Instead, they are filling a gap that the tourism sector of our economy desperately needs filled.  Time quotes Tommy Diehl, president of a major attraction in the Wisconsin Dells:  “If anyone says these people are taking jobs away from Americans, they don’t know what they’re talking about.”

Just as important, SWT is the State Department’s largest exchange program, and its only program that reaches undergraduates in significant numbers.  And because the program is funded through student fees, all these positive people-to-people connections happen at no cost to the US taxpayer.

Students come from all over the world – Ireland, Russia, Ukraine, China, Turkey, and Brazil are among the largest sending countries – and enjoy the powerful cultural exchange experience of learning to live and work in a new country.  Students cover their program and living costs through their earnings.  Surveys show that over 90 per cent of these students are motivated to visit the U.S. by their desire for cultural exchange, not because they want to work. Ninety per cent have a positive experience, make American friends, and improve their English.  And a remarkable 98 per cent recommended the program to friends, a clear sign of a successful exchange program.

Here’s where we are, in policy terms:

We have a popular, successful Summer Work Travel program that builds good will for the U.S around the world at no cost to the American taxpayer, directly connects us with students who are future leaders in their home countries, and supports our tourism sector by filling a critical seasonal gap.

And yet, policymakers are considering sharply reducing the size of the program, or perhaps even eliminating it, despite much diminished demand from Americans for such jobs.

Someone asked me recently if this circumstance really poses a serious threat to the program.  After all, she continued, SWT has faced regulatory challenges in recent years and always has emerged stronger.

My answer:  on a scale of existential threat with 10 being the most threatening, we are now facing a 10.  What’s going on in Washington is not a discussion about the best way to run the program, but whether we should have the program at all.

All American stakeholders in this program – host communities, employers, and sponsors – should make their voices heard by their Members of Congress and the White House.  Summer Work Travel is a national diplomatic asset – low cost, high value, long-term payoff – that we need to preserve.

Michael McCarry

Michael McCarry is a Senior Advisor at CENET. With over 37 years of international experience– both as a Foreign Service Officer and the Executive Director of the Alliance for International Exchange– Michael McCarry is a leader within the exchange community, with distinct insight and knowledge in policy, foreign affairs, and public diplomacy. 

The Summer Work Travel program is good for Americans and great for America. This cultural exchange program that supports strong economies and & U.S. national security interests is under attack. For more information and ways to get involved in protecting this valuable public diplomacy program, please visit Americans for Cultural Exchange or contact CENET.  

CENET strives to inspire a safer, more prosperous and compassionate world through international education and cultural exploration.For more news and updates about CENET, please visit our Facebook Page.

 

 

 

 

 

Worrisome Gaps in State Department Staffing

By Michael McCarry 

Op-Ed | #CENETJ1 #ExchangesImpact

About a month ago, I wrote that Congress’s strong appropriation for the Department of State and for its exchange programs was a very encouraging sign for all of us in the exchange community.

Maybe I wrote too soon.

An NPR interview this week with Max Bergmann, who worked at State for six years during the Obama Administration, publicly reinforced what I’ve been hearing for some time from colleagues in and around the Department:  that under Secretary Rex Tillerson, State is being – to use Bergmann’s term – ‘hollowed out’.

Even with a one per cent increase in funding for the current fiscal year (not usually considered a sign of dire financial straits), the Trump administration’s State Department has instituted a hiring freeze.  That means that as people leave or retire, they mostly are not replaced.  Some senior Foreign Service Officers and civil servants – people with abiding personal commitments to U.S. national security and career-deep expertise – have been reassigned to lesser positions, and have chosen to leave the Department.  And the intake of junior Foreign Service officers appears to have slowed to a trickle.

Put these details together and here’s what you get:  State is choosing to diminish itself at its senior and junior rungs, and to not fill vacancies.  It’s hard to discern how this approach will enhance our diplomacy, or our national security.

You can hear Bergmann’s NPR interview here.

And read his longer treatment of the topic in a Politico article here.

I served in the Foreign Service for about 16 years, with overseas tours in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Beijing, plus several Washington assignments.  I can tell you that the State Department’s foreign service and civil service staff is exceptional – smart, dedicated, and passionate about serving the American public.  I was proud to be among them, every single day.

The notion that we can conduct successful diplomacy on the cheap is just wrong.  The United States remains the most important country in the world, and we need a State Department that can effectively serve our national interests, needs, and ambitions.  That requires resources, not just dollars but also human resources.

State Department staffing is not the kind of topic that will lead the nightly news, but it is critically important to our national well-being.  This issue raises serious alarm bells, and thus deserves serious attention from Congress, the media, and the public.

Michael McCarry

Michael McCarry is a Senior Advisor at CENET. With over 37 years of international experience– both as a Foreign Service Officer and the Executive Director of the Alliance for International Exchange– Michael McCarry is a leader within the exchange community, with distinct insight and knowledge in policy, foreign affairs, and public diplomacy. 

CENET strives to inspire a safer, more prosperous and compassionate world through international education and cultural exploration.For more news and updates about CENET, please visit our Facebook Page.

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More Funding for Exchanges: Good News for Everyone

By Michael McCarry 

Op-Ed | #CENETJ1 #ExchangesImpact

In its budget deal to keep the government open until the end of Fiscal Year 2017 (Sept. 30), Congress increased overall State Department funding by 1 per cent, and funded the Department’s exchange programs at $634 million, a 7 per cent increase and only $1 million short of all-time high water mark for exchanges in FY2010.

This is extraordinarily good news for the country, and for anyone who cares about exchanges, even if your programs do not receive federal funding.

Here’s why:

President Trump’s first budget request (for Fiscal Year 2018, which begins October 1 of this year) seeks a 29 per cent reduction in State Department funding, and deep cuts for most exchange programs.

Like any other President, Trump only gets to propose funding levels for federal agencies and programs.  Congress decides.  And it will need to make its decisions on Trump’s first budget in time for the new fiscal year that begins October 1, 2017.  If necessary (and it often is), Congress can postpone that deadline by passing Continuing Resolutions that keep the government running temporarily at the previous year’s funding levels.

During the Watergate crisis, secret source Deep Throat (FBI Deputy Director Mark Felt) famously told Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward that if he wanted to understand what was going on, he needed to “follow the money”.  That’s still good advice when trying to parse Washington politics.

In Washington, money serves as its own kind of language.  In its appropriations for the State Department and exchange programs, Congress sent the White House a clear, even emphatic message:  diplomacy matters.

The current Republican-controlled Congress is not alone in this view.

Robert Gates, Secretary of Defense under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, noted in a 2008 speech, “…our own national security toolbox must be well-equipped with more than just hammers.”

Current Secretary of Defense James Mattis, testifying before Congress for the Pentagon as General Mattis, made the same point in 2013: “If you don’t fund the State Department fully, then I need to buy more ammunition… I think it’s a cost-benefit ratio. The more that we put into the State Department’s diplomacy, hopefully the less we have to put into a military budget as we deal with the outcome of an apparent American withdrawal from the international scene.”

Work is just beginning on 2018 appropriations, but the strong expression of support from Congress leaves the State Department and its exchange programs in a good position as the next funding cycle begins. The 2017 numbers tell us that Congress is not prepared to consider the steep cuts proposed by the President.

And that creates a much more positive outlook for everyone in the exchange field, even those whose programs derive support from participant fees. If budget numbers are indeed a Washington dialect, a significant cut would tell you that diplomacy and exchanges are not considered important. A funding boost such as the one just enacted tells you they matter a lot.

In the political world, that message matters, because the rationale for exchange programs – whatever the funding mechanism – is identical.  Members of Congress who favor strong funding for exchanges are more likely to understand and support well-run exchanges that don’t receive federal dollars, because all exchanges promote mutual understanding and respect, and thus, as Secretaries of Defense have testified, support U.S. national security.

Moreover, every exchange program is better off with a strong Department of State.  We all need U.S. embassies with the facilities and staff to adjudicate visas in a timely way, to reach out to potential exchange participants with information and encouragement, and to direct exchange programs in ways that serve the public interest.

Recent Congressional action on exchange funding and the very clear message it sends go a long way preserving that capacity for all of us.


Michael McCarry

Michael McCarry is a Senior Advisor at CENET. With over 37 years of international experience– both as a Foreign Service Officer and the Executive Director of the Alliance for International Exchange– Michael McCarry is a leader within the exchange community, with distinct insight and knowledge in policy, foreign affairs, and public diplomacy. 

CENET strives to inspire a safer, more prosperous and compassionate world through international education and cultural exploration.For more news and updates about CENET, please visit our Facebook Page.

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CENET’s First 100 Days

Op-Ed By Leslie Corn

#CENETJ1 #ExchangesImpact

I believe it was the wise words of Alabama that once proclaimed “you can’t keep a good man down.” And that’s exactly what’s happening here. Thanks Randy Owen. I’m not certain the song was written for this moment in time, but it could be. It is, after all, 2017– the year of anything is possible.

Due to events that will not be named in this apolitical post (hint: it started in November), it’s safe to say there’s been some recent challenges presented to the exchange community.

In the midst of adversity, it’s as though Alabama (the band) was singing directly to Missouri (the state), and we got to work. Although it felt like our course became uphill, we continued in forward-movement towards our goals.

Below is a snapshot of CENET’s first 100 Days; 100 days well spent, endeavoring to inspire a safer, more prosperous and compassionate world through international education and cultural exploration.


Local:

CENET started the year in our new office, with our new website, with our old staff holding some new titles, and some new staff joining the team. We also welcomed a new J-1 category. It was like we won the lottery. But better because we didn’t get the curse that goes along with all lottery wins (source: the internet).

We also provided Culture in the Classroom sessions for 530 students, impacting 31 classrooms at 3 schools with 9 different presenters sharing their unique cultural backgrounds. A special presentation in Oran attracted media attention from the Southeast Missourian  and KFVS coverage; the session also had support from the offices of Senator Blunt and Representative Smith.

CENET hosted a Welcome Reception in our office space, to share our mission with new friends and long-time supporters. Over 150 community members joined us to sample international cuisine and wine & beer selections from around the world.

On April 27, over 40 CENET supporters gathered at Hedman Vineyards for a special culinary and wine event celebrating Swedish culture and raising funds for Culture in the Community. The funds raised at the event will be directed to sending area youth to the world-renowned Concordia Language Villages for 2017 summer programs.

In addition, CENET hosted a local Chamber of Commerce After-Hours event, presented at the women’s Optimist Club in Jackson, sponsored “Carnaval Night: Welcome to Rio” as part of SEMO of the World, welcomed various visiting partners from around the world, and hosted a Magellan University member from Zuyd University of Applied Sciences.

 


Regional:

In Branson, CENET cohosted the J-1 Community Forum, and the Branson Lakes Area Lodging Association’s monthly meeting. CENET was also selected to present at the County Partnership’s Workforce Summit. Community members in Branson are highly supportive, with the Branson Mayor and the office of Representative Billy Long regularly attending J-1 related events. CENET’s Regional Director, support staff, fellow sponsors, and community members continue to prepare for another successful summer season in Branson.


National:

We began the year with a visit to our west coast partners to provide J-1 education and training on our new website.

To connect within the exchange community and to gain valuable insight into the Camp Counselor program, CENET attended the American Camp Association Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Once again, CENET participated in Advocacy Day. CENET and fellow Alliance members visited over 170 congressional offices on Capitol Hill to advocate on behalf of J-1 exchanges.

Recently, CENET had the privilege of participating in a volunteer project in Wisconsin Dells, which attracted approximately 360 winter work and travel exchange participants; the following day, CENET attended the Wisconsin Dells Annual Employer and Community Forum.


International:

CENET staff members have visited international partners in the United Kingdom, Budapest, Prague, Bratislava, and Warsaw, while also attended hiring fairs throughout Europe and the Dominican Republic. In addition, an alumni gathering was held in the Dominican Republic.

Magellan member universities, Aachen University of Applied Sciences and Zuyd University of Applied Sciences, also received CENET visits.

CENET attended the WETM conference in Munich, Germany.


Looking Ahead: 

As we move forward, CENET will continue to dedicate ourselves to programs that inspire a safer, more prosperous, and compassionate world through international education and cultural exploration. We will also continue to advocate for exchange programs and initiatives that promote global knowledge, cultural sensitivity, peaceful solutions. Should you be interested in learning more about CENET programs or how to get involved, please contact CENET.

And if you aren’t sure what CENET is or how you got on this page, you should probably go watch the Alabama Can’t Keep a Good Man Down video. You earned it.

CENET strives to inspire a safer, more prosperous and compassionate world through international education and cultural exploration. For more news and updates about CENET, please visit our Facebook Page.

 

Does ‘America First’ Mean ‘America Alone’? 

By Michael McCarry

Op-Ed | #CENETJ1 #ExchangesImpact

We are still in the first months of the Trump Administration.  Early indicators suggest that our new President is not yet a supporter of international exchange programs.

While detail is scant concerning Trump’s first proposed budget, press reports indicate he proposes deep cuts in funding for the State Department’s exchange programs.

And during his campaign, Trump indicated that he would eliminate a variety of unfunded State Department programs that reach large numbers of international students and young professionals.  These inbound programs comprise a creative range of activities for young adults that include internships, professional training, camp counseling, and casual work at summer resorts.  These are programs administered by Cultural Exchange Network (CENET) and other nongovernmental organizations in partnership with the State Department.

This apparent disregard for exchanges puts Trump outside a 65-year bipartisan political consensus that these programs are an important component of our national security.

Ronald Reagan, the ultimate Cold Warrior, was a believer.  After his election in 1980, Reagan wanted to deploy intermediate range nuclear missiles in Germany to counter a Soviet deployment.  The German public resisted.

The White House concluded that part of its public opinion problem in Germany was demographic. Germans who remembered the defeat of Hitler, the Berlin airlift, and the Marshall Plan were passing from the scene, along with their personal sense of gratitude toward the U.S.  Rising generations of Germans did not have a similar emotional connection to America.

The Reagan solution?  One element was The President’s Youth Exchange Initiative, designed to greatly expand high school exchanges between the U.S. and other nations, including Western Europe.  The idea was to foster what President Reagan called ‘a language of understanding’ between nations, powered by a cohort of citizens who had lived in each other’s homes, attended each other’s schools, and understood each other’s values.

Since the success of Reagan’s youth exchange initiative, American leaders from both parties have turned repeatedly to exchange programs in times of major international events, whether crisis or opportunity.  People-to-people programs were close to the heart of the American response to the 9/11 attacks, the collapse of the Soviet Union, the breakup of Yugoslavia, and China’s Tiananmen Square violence.

Republicans and Democrats have always supported exchange programs for a reason: these programs make a positive difference to our national security.  Exchange experiences build a web of understanding and relationships that lasts a lifetime.  They make us safer.

Think about how much harder it is to demonize an entire nationality – ‘all Americans are this way’ or ‘all Germans are that way’ – if you’ve actually met an American or a German, had a meal with them, worked or studied beside them.  That’s an equation that applies to international students who come here, and to Americans who study abroad.  We all win.

And think, too, how an American exchange experience affects the lives of those who come here.   Those participants return to their home countries with improved English and with new knowledge and self-confidence gained from successfully navigating American culture.  These qualities equip them for future success, and many exchange alumni around the world have gone on to careers as diplomats, cabinet ministers, parliamentarians, or even heads of state.  And although if these alumni don’t pursue careers in politics or policy, their influence in business, academia, journalism, or other fields can be significant.

Simply put, these programs make friends, often influential friends, for America.

Our new Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, made the point well in Congressional testimony in 2013, when he was Commander of the U.S. Central Command:  “…if you don’t fund the State Department fully, then I need to buy more ammunition…

“… it’s a cost-benefit ratio. The more we put into the State Department’s diplomacy, hopefully the less we have to put into a military budget as we deal with the outcome of apparent American withdrawal from the international scene.”

For nearly 40 years, Republicans and Democrats have agreed that President Reagan had it right:  we need to keep working on his “language of understanding”, a language that connects Americans to the world, and by doing so, makes us all safer.


Michael McCarry

Michael McCarry is a Senior Advisor at CENET. With over 37 years of international experience– both as a Foreign Service Officer and the Executive Director of the Alliance for International Exchange– Michael McCarry is a leader within the exchange community, with distinct insight and knowledge in policy, foreign affairs, and public diplomacy. 

CENET strives to inspire a safer, more prosperous and compassionate world through international education and cultural exploration.For more news and updates about CENET, please visit our Facebook Page.

CENET Participates in Advocacy Day

By Leslie Corn

Advocacy | #ExchangesImpact #CENETJ1

On March 8-9, approximately 120 representatives from over 40 sponsor organizations gathered in Washington, D.C. to advocate for U.S. State Department exchange programs. The Alliance for International Exchange facilitates Advocacy Day annually; the 2017 event was the largest gathering to date.

The schedule featured educational sessions, messaging training, networking opportunities, and a Congressional Reception. The culminating event occurred when participants visited over 170 congressional offices on Capitol Hill.

There were various objectives for the congressional office visits, but ultimately participants asked elected officials to support and protect Department of State exchange programs.

Each year, over 300,000 exchange visitors come to the U.S. on privately funded exchange programs, representing 200 countries; U.S. Department of State provides funding for an additional 55,000 exchange participants. The U.S. needs both federally and privately-funded programs to have a comprehensive, balanced approach to international exchanges. Conversely, over 313,00 Americans study abroad for academic credit and 10,000+ Americans travel abroad as exchange participants (source: Department of State).

J-1 cultural exchange programs serve as a public diplomacy tool that supports U.S. national security, strengthens the U.S. economy, and increases mutual understanding between the U.S. and other nations. Additional program benefits include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Exchanges help the U.S. engage with countries key to U.S. interests. Exchanges target demographics key to U.S. foreign policy priorities (U.S. Department of State).
  • 565 Current & former heads of foreign governments are exchange alumni (U.S. Department of State).
  • 82 Nobel Prize winners are exchange alumni (U.S. Department of State).
  • 58 ambassadors to the United Nations are exchange alumni (U.S. Department of State).
  • 89 members of U.S. Congress are exchange alumni (U.S. Department of State).
  • Exchanges bring resources to U.S. communities. International students contributed 32.8 billion to the U.S. economy and supported over 400,000 jobs during the 2015-2016 academic year (NAFSA).
  • Over 1.6 million hours of community service were completed by exchange participants and U.S. hosts (source: U.S. Department of State Evaluations).
  • 94% of students from Muslim-majority countries reported having a deeper, favorable view of American culture after their year in the U.S (U.S. Department of State evaluation of the Youth Exchange and Study (YES) program).
  • A review of 29 reports on public diplomacy revealed that the most common recommendation was to increase funding for, and opportunities to engage in, exchange programs (Congressional Research Service [CSR] Review).
  •  EVP exchanges occur at virtually no cost to the U.S. taxpayer.
  • U.S. Ambassadors consistently rank exchange programs among the most useful catalysts for long-term political change and mutual understanding.

To join CENET and our colleagues in our advocacy efforts, please email or call the CENET office: cenet@cenet.org or 573-335-7111.

Thank you to Mark Taplin, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, and Kevin Saba, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Private Sector Exchange, for participating in the Congressional Reception; thank you to their Department of State colleagues for attending as well. Special thanks to the offices of Senator Roy Blunt, Senator Claire McCaskill, Representative Smith, Representative Long, and Senator Alexander for meeting with the CENET staff to discuss the positive impact of international exchange programs. 

CENET strives to inspire a safer, more prosperous and compassionate world through international education and cultural exploration. For more news and updates about CENET, please visit our Facebook Page.

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Legislative Offices and Local Media Attend CENET Program at Elementary School

By Leslie Corn

Culture in the Community|#ExchangesImpact #CENETJ1

On February 1, Culture in the Community (CITC) visited the 3rd & 4th grade classes at Oran Elementary. After receiving play passports, the students embarked on a “journey around the world”—all from within their school’s gymnasium.

The students rotated through six country stations: Brazil, Australia, India, Costa Rica, Japan, and World Geography. At each stop, international presenters shared their home cultures, customs, and cuisines. Through the interactive presentations, students learned there are not only differences between U.S. and world cultures, but also similarities – and those differences and similarities should be celebrated and not feared.

CENET was joined by staff from the offices of Senator Blunt and Representative Smith, as well as KFVS and the Southeast Missourian. Special thanks to Senator Blunt for supporting CITC on social media:

roy-blunt-tweet

CITC aims to provide authentic international education for area schools and groups. Since its inception in 2011, CITC has provided free programs for thousands of area youth. The program utilizes Southeast Missouri State University’s exchange students and international faculty, CENET staff, and local residents from other countries to provide interactive, international education about world cultures.

For more information about the event, check out the Southeast Missourian article  or KFVS coverage.

A photo gallery from the event is included below:

CENET is a non-profit organization located in the Marquette Tech District in Cape Girardeau. In addition to Culture in the Community, CENET serves as a U.S. State Department authorized J-1 visa sponsor. CENET also provides The Magellan Exchange, a study abroad program for faculty and staff from universities worldwide, including Southeast Missouri State University.

Should your organization or school be interested in booking a CITC program, please contact CENET. 573-335-7111; cenet@cenet.org

CENET strives to inspire a safer, more prosperous and compassionate world through international education and cultural exploration. For more news and updates about CENET, please visit our Facebook Page.

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