CENET’s Culture in the Community Partners with Boys & Girls Club on 6-week Summer Camp

Culture in the Community | #CITC #CENETJ1

CAPE GIRARDEAU– This summer, CENET had the privilege of providing Culture in the Community (CITC) sessions for the local chapter of the Boys & Girls Club. The 6-week summer camp catered to area children ranging from ages 4-16.

Each week, special guests from around the world presented to groups of 16 students. Special presentations included: Rania Majed & family (Syria); Ritabrata Kar, Shvetha Gohn, and Sherwin Christian (India); José Andrés Miño & Tiffany Comfort (Ecuador); Brayan Rueda (Costa Rica); Maria Sheikh (Pakistan); and lastly, presentations by CENET staff members covering the meaning of culture and a spotlight on African countries.

Throughout camp, the students enjoyed a wide array of activities ranging from world cooking demonstrations, cricket instruction, partner yoga, henna tattoo application, and global arts and crafts. Many students also enjoyed a field trip to the CENET office.

At the conclusion of the 6-week camp, the culminating event was a Culture Fair that was put on by a select group of students who had participated in the first 5-weeks of camp. Approximately 55 students participated in the Culture Fair.

Special thanks to the Boys & Girls Club and to the presenters; additional thanks to Centenary Methodist Church for providing the camp space.

A photo gallery from Boys & Girls Club CITC sessions is included below, as well as a video.

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.

 

CENET Participates in ‘SEMO of the World’ Celebration

By Leslie Corn

Culture in the Community | #CITC #CENETJ1

Throughout the spring semester, Southeast Missouri State University (SEMO) will provide activities honoring world cultures. Students, faculty, and members of the regional community are invited to participate in “SEMO of the World,” a celebration of cultural diversity in Southeast Missouri.

“This is an opportunity to shine a spotlight on the numerous internationally-focused activities happening across campus and in the community during the remainder of the semester.  Not everyone is aware of the deep and meaningful ways Southeast is engaged in international education, and ‘SEMO of the World’ is an opportunity to demonstrate that engagement,” said Kevin Timlin, executive director of Southeast’s International Education and Services, “‘SEMO of the World’ is an opportunity to demonstrate how much we, as a University community, respect and value all that international students and scholars bring to the educational environment here. We hope everyone will take the time to attend some of these events to show that everyone from around the world is welcome here.” (source: Southeast Missourian)

Currently, 883 international students representing 50 countries are enrolled at SEMO. Various student and community organizations are joining forces to provide a calendar of meaningful activities for the “SEMO of the World” series; these activities will provide international students with opportunities to share their cultures and customs with their American counterparts.

CENET joined the festivities by sponsoring “Carnaval Night: Welcome to Rio,” organized by the Brazilian Student Association and hosted by Centenary United Methodist Church. Per the event description, the evening was a “high-energy night exploring the richness and diversity of Brazil by enjoying traditional Brazilian dishes prepared by Chef Juliana, a live samba performance by renowned Brazilian music and dance group Samba Bom, carnival dancers, samba lessons, bossa nova, capoeira, freestyle soccer and much more.”

The CENET staff especially enjoyed getting to see several Brazilian volunteers from Culture in the Community (CITC) participate in the event; one demonstrated capoeira, a Brazilian martial art that combines elements of dance, acrobatics and music, while others performed a Brazilian pop song.

CENET’s contribution was used to hire Samba Bom, a renowned music and dance group, and to provide special lighting for the event.

The evening was a huge success and a true celebration of Brazilian culture.

Check out event photos in the gallery below. Details about other “SEMO of the World” events may be found here.

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 Attends ACA Conference

By Leslie Corn

#CENETJ1 | Camp Counselor

On February 21-24, CENET staff attended the American Camp Association (ACA) National Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Through ACA sessions and networking opportunities, CENET gained valuable insight that will further strengthen its J-1 Camp Counselor program. Special thanks to officials from the U.S. Department of State for participating in a panel discussion regarding the J-1 Camp Counselor program category, followed by individual meetings with designated sponsors. Per the ACA website , the following Department of State representatives were in attendance:

  • Diane Culkin: Diane is the Division Chief in the U.S. Department of State Office of Private Sector Exchange — Office of Designation.  The Department oversees and administers the Exchange Visitor (J) non-immigrant visa which includes J-1 Summer Work Travel and Camp Counselor visas.
  • Jacqueline Chisolmn: Jacqueline is a Program Analyst with the U.S. Department of State Office of Private Sector Exchange — Office of Program Administration.  The Department oversees and administers the Exchange Visitor (J) non-immigrant visa which includes J-1 Summer Work Travel and Camp Counselor visas.
  • Deena Pinckney-Cooper: Deena is the Lead Program Analyst with the U.S. Department of State Office of Private Sector Exchange — Office of Designation. The Department oversees and administers the Exchange Visitor (J) non-immigrant visa which includes J-1 Summer Work Travel and Camp Counselor visas.
  • Jennifer Nupp: Jennifer is a Program Analyst with the U.S. Department of State Office of Private Sector Exchange — Office of Designation. The Department oversees and administers the Exchange Visitor (J) non-immigrant visa which includes J-1 Summer Work Travel and Camp Counselor visas.

*Lauren Grimes was also in attendance and participated in CENET’s sponsor meeting.

Check out photos from CENET’s week at ACA below:

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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