Exchange Matters / May 13, 2024

International Exchange Highlights the Power of Partnerships

Compiled by Layla Melendez, Communications Intern

Through the power of partnerships, the Global Ties Network is connecting U.S. and international counterparts through exchanges like the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP). From discussions on diversifying university partnerships in Oregon and Mexico, to interagency coordination at the Southwest border of Texas, discover how people-to-people collaboration takes shape within the Global Ties Network. 


IVLP: Diversifying University Partnerships
NPA: American Councils for International Education 

By Kristel Wissel, Program Officer 

IVLP delegation poses in front of mural depicting popular elements of Mexican culture. Photos provided by WorldOregon.


This March, WorldOregon had the opportunity to host higher education leaders from several Mexican universities to explore binational efforts to support students and staff through cross-cultural collaboration.   

The leaders toured Oregon’s Willamette Valley to examine three distinct educational partnerships, first visiting Chemeketa Community College’s main campus in Salem, which was the first higher education institution in our state to be federally recognized as a Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI). They met with the deans of the programs, who showcased everything from agricultural studies to technology to the apprenticeship trades program. A highlight for our visitors was learning about on-the-job training from employer partners and Chemeketa’s private and public partnerships.   

The visitors then headed to Western Oregon University in Monmouth to visit a state university and learn how an emerging HSI showcases their community engagement efforts. 

IVLP group is all smiles at Western Oregon University.

Afterwards, the group headed to Linfield University in McMinnville—located in the heart of Oregon’s wine country to see how a private university navigates challenges and builds on best practices as an emerging HSI.  

While in Oregon, the visitors also met representatives from Warner Pacific University and Portland State University to talk about the programs offered at their institutions, as well as the engagement efforts in place to attract and support students. 

IVLP participants engage with representatives from Portland State University.

It was truly inspiring to see the excitement and enthusiasm of both the local resources and the international visitors as they discussed future partnership opportunities to explore through both student programs and staff exchanges. 

Ricardo Lujan Valerio, Director of Government Relations from Western Oregon University said it best: “The opportunity to engage with such a passionate group of leaders from Mexico was not only a privilege but a vivid testament to the potential for impactful collaborations and mutual learning that transcends borders. It was truly inspiring to witness the enthusiasm and insightful perspectives brought to the table by our guests.” 

The visitors were so appreciative that the presidents of the universities and colleges all took the time to meet with them. They also loved the opportunity to converse in Spanish with so many leaders around the table. The work that Oregon higher education programs have done to foster an inclusive and warm environment really made a lasting impression on the visitors.  

As one of our visitors shared:

“Collaborating with this network of fellows and engaging in meaningful projects brings me immense joy,” said Alejandro Garcia Molina, EducationUSA Advisor for the Sonora Secretary of Education. “Noteworthy visits to the U.S. Higher Education Institutions, like Portland State University and Chemeketa Community College, left a lasting impression. Witnessing their innovative programs and commitment to sustainability was truly inspiring. I’m inspired to explore the implementation of similar educational models, such as Community Colleges, in Mexico. I believe these models could provide valuable educational pathways for our society.” 

We are so appreciative of how leaders embrace the spirit of a two-way exchange and the community commitment to hospitality and meaningful engagement.    


El Paso Council for International Visitors

IVLP: Policy Planning and Interagency Coordination in Foreign Affairs
NPA: Meridian International Center

By Araceli Lagos, Executive Director

IVLP group at the El Paso Intelligence Center. Photo provided by El Paso Council for International Visitors.

In April 2024, the El Paso Council for International Visitors (EPCIV) and Meridian International Center implemented the “Policy Planning and Interagency Coordination in Foreign Affairs” International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP), a project for the Republic of Kosovo. This project examined best practices in U.S. foreign policy-making, strategic planning, and interagency coordination. 

In El Paso, we focused on themes of U.S. foreign policy interests at the border, bi-lateral efforts to address cross-border issues, activities of specialized task forces and local law enforcement operations.

On their first day in El Paso, the IVLP group met at the Office of Emergency Management (OEM), where Chief Jorge Rodriguez discussed the cross-sector response to the migrant influx along the Southwest Border, elaborating on the role and interaction of federal agencies, as well as U.S. foreign policy interests at the border. 

Moving on to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) El Paso Processing Center, Assistant Field Office Director Angel Garite guided the delegation through their facilities where the group witnessed the processes used in the apprehension, detention, and removal of undocumented immigrants.  

The Kosovo visitors closed out the day at the Center for Inter-American and Border Studies at the University of Texas – El Paso where they met with Josiah Heyman, Ph.D., who discussed his research on U.S.- Mexico border issues, and their impacts on policymaking and outreach activities, as well as the opportunities for both the regional and international community.

On the program’s second day, we ventured to the Paso Intelligence Center (EPIC) and Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) where Acting Director Adrian Ibanez welcomed the delegation. Tactical Operations Unit Chief Eric Jolley also met with the IVLP group, and highlighted the interaction, communication, and coordination among specialized task forces in the area. Chief Joelly discussed how multi-agency staff exchange information on human smuggling, weapons trafficking, drug interdiction with other cities in the United States, along with domestic and international best practices for collaboration. 

Later on, retired Border Patrol agent Ramiro Cordero provided a three-hour ports-of-entry border tour where the international visitors observed live non-intrusive inspection systems, migrants’ crossings, and visited the six bridges that connect El Paso to Mexico. Each bridge facilitates the movement of people and goods between the neighboring countries through commercial, vehicular, and pedestrian traffic. The participants described this tour as a “special and extraordinary sight.”

One of the most memorable experiences for the international visitors was the home hospitality at Walli Halley’s residence. Our host ordered a special Kosovo flag cake, and the group enjoyed a delightful mix of Mexican food and local drinks. The evening was filled with friendly conversations with EPCIV members, making it a truly “unique and moving experience” for all, as one of the visitors shared.

As the exchange came to a close, our team was deeply touched to receive a heartfelt thank-you note from the Kosovo participants. They expressed their gratitude, saying: “In El Paso, we learned how, beyond daily public narratives, the border between the two countries is a point of unity, not division. Whilst there will always be those who will be the loudest, being in El Paso, we witnessed firsthand how El Paso is a celebration of both a common past and a joint future—a place where everyone belongs.” This feedback is a testament to the meaningful experiences they had during their visit and underscored the importance of our work in fostering international understanding and cooperation. 

We were truly honored to host the Kosovo delegation and deeply appreciate their kindness and curiosity throughout their stay. Their active participation and insightful contributions have enriched our program as we look forward to future collaborations with the IVLP.