By Ra’phael Davis, Program Officer, Global Ties Arkansas
Global Ties Arkansas has expanded our programmatic output in the last four years. We’ve formed partnerships with schools to bring cybersecurity education into classrooms and run leadership programs that promote intercultural awareness. We’ve hosted a speaker series and taken international visitors to volunteer in the most critical areas of our state. But our idea to create an accessible public diplomacy program that brings international engagement to people in Arkansas who don’t get to typically engage with it kept getting shelved. We bounced ideas around, then the pandemic hit.
In October of 2020, we received an email from George Washington University’s Institute for Public Diplomacy and Global Communication announcing that we had been awarded $5,000 from the Walter Roberts Endowment to develop a public diplomacy project. We had won a contest we didn’t even know we were in. The award accompanied the 2021 Congressional Award for Leadership and Diplomacy given to Senator John Boozman (R-AR) who was recognized for his strong support of the Fulbright Program. We are using this grant to take that idea of creating accessible international engagement off the shelf.
We opened a competition among alumni of our international programs, including the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP), and formed a six-member committee of our most involved volunteers to help evaluate the projects and select finalists. Gabby Sanz from Peru was declared the winner.
Gabby visited Arkansas through the Young Leaders of America Initiative in 2017 and formed an amazing bond with members of our community. She has returned several times since, sometimes gathering groups of Arkansas families for language and cultural lessons. This time, she is returning to work with the Global Ties Arkansas team and her former mentor, Dr. Cindy Fong, to run a 15-day exchange between Arkansas and Peru. During the program, our communities will have the chance to learn about differences in cuisine and the arts. The session will be conducted in both English and Spanish.
Our hope is that we will be able to continue the Global Ties Arkansas Public Diplomacy Program in the future. We want to develop this program as an opportunity for all our international visitors to know that if they visit Arkansas, they’re not only getting our special Southern touch of hospitality and friendliness, but also opportunities for continued public diplomacy and collaboration.