By Tera Hannah, Associate Director of International Programs and Events at Northern California World Trade Center (NCWTC) and Jon Ordog, Senior Program Associate at World Learning
Each year members of our Network participate in an exchange for CBMs and NPA staff. World Learning has sponsored a CBM staff exchange each year for more than 20 years. CBM staff (both volunteer and paid) are invited to apply each year in early March for the exchange to occur on mutually agreed-upon dates sometime in the next six months. Applicants should send a letter of interest explaining why they want to participate in the exchange and a supporting statement from their executive director or board chair. If a CBM would like to host a World Learning staff member, they can indicate their interest in doing so by contacting Marilyn Saks-Million at World Learning. Two of last year’s participants, Tera Hannah, Associate Director of International Programs and Events at Northern California World Trade Center, and Jon Ordog, Senior Program Associate at World Learning, share insights from their exchange.
Jon Ordog of World Learning
Overall, this exchange was incredibly rewarding in giving me a view into how CBMs operate, experiencing how visitors programs develop outside of DC, asking questions on how to ease communication between myself and CBM staff, and better understanding intern management. In my application to participate in this exchange, I outlined how I would share my experience through social media. For me, this was not just about highlighting the meetings I attended and the work that NorCalWTC does, but also an opportunity for professional development, as I had little experience with using social media for professional purposes.
Upon finishing my stay in Sacramento, I appreciated the opportunity to present what I learned in a staff meeting since it not only allowed me to share what I had learned, but also allowed me to work on my presentation skills. I look forward to serving as a resource for future exchanges and using my experiences to better inform my IVLP programming.
Tera Hannah of Northern California World Trade Center
This exchange exceeded the expectations I had when I first learned I had been selected: not only did it allow me to experience the planning and implementation of IVLP at the CBM, NPA, and U.S. Department of State levels, it reaffirmed my drive to pursue a career I am passionate about and live a life that is full of meaning, public service, and good friends (food and wine!)
Jon and I communicated often in advance of his visit to Sacramento and mine to DC; it was extremely helpful for planning purposes for both legs of the exchange. Our interactions gave me a better understanding of the IVLP brainstorming process at the NPA level.
While in DC, it was extremely illuminating to take part in a program opening; from a CBM perspective, it was very helpful to see how the expectations are set, and to allow the visitors to get acquainted with each other. Meetings on IVLP programming, how projects are assigned, and including meaningful cultural resources complemented what I learned in the brainstorming sessions–in that NPAs strive to expose visitors to a diversity of speakers (in terms of age, ethnicity, religion, political views, etc.), organizations, geographic areas, and cultural activities. I have since shared many of these resources, including the IVLP best practices and the WL project checklist and deadlines, with my colleagues.
In addition to getting a firsthand look at the planning and programing processes at the local, NPA, and national levels, I am also extremely grateful for the wonderful home hospitality and cultural components of the exchange. I cannot overstate the value of this staff exchange; it has helped me understand the planning and implementation of the IVLP program overall, and our unique role as local partners and ambassadors.