Exchange Matters / June 5, 2023

The Leadership Corner – June 2023

By Katherine Brown, Ph.D., President and CEO 

Hello, Global Ties Network members, partners, and supporters, and welcome to summer 2023. At Global Ties U.S., we’ve been reflecting on our busy first half of the year and preparing for a very busy second half, with several events this summer and fall to convene this extraordinary and growing community of citizen diplomats.  

First though, I want to share a publication Ann-Louise Colgan and I co-authored for the Truman Center’s City and State Diplomacy Toolkit titled, “Foreign Policy and the People: Engaging U.S. Citizens and Communities in Diplomacy.” It highlights the crucial role of citizen-led engagement in global affairs, particularly the community-based organizations that support this work, and how that can deepen city and state officials’ local diplomacy efforts. The full piece can be accessed here. We hope you can share it with your local leaders to focus their attention on your community-led efforts to strengthen our alliances, while also strengthening your city’s economy. 

National Meeting plenary session panel “(Re)Building Community through Intentional DEIA.” From left: Xiao Yin Zhao, Ahli Moore, Eurica Huggins Axum, Ashley Holben, Lily Lopez-McGee, Ph.D. Photo by Kristoffer Tripplaar.

These are themes we promoted in March at our 2023 National Meeting. Under the banner of “(Re)Building Community: Globally and Locally,” we unpacked how we build community on three levels: globally, by building relationships that are critical for U.S. foreign policy through international exchange programs; locally, by welcoming international visitors to our cities, which helps drive community impact, both economically and socio-culturally; and within our extraordinary Network, which is the domestic backbone for U.S. public diplomacy efforts.  

We welcomed nearly 600 people to the National Meeting – our largest turnout since the COVID-19 pandemic – for a series of plenary sessions, workshops, and networking events. This included keynotes from Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs Lee Satterfield and AmeriCorps CEO Michael Smith. We also heard from our Citizen Diplomat Awardees Justin Powell from Youthlinc and Andrea Bertrand from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and the recipients of our International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) Alumni Award for Social Innovation and Change, Anass Hanafi of Italy and Jona Rizvanolli of Albania. We loved the speeches from our colleagues who won Network Innovation Awards and continue to be in awe of their pioneering work to advance our field.  

There was a strong focus on diversity and belonging among the plenary and breakout sessions, with programming designed and led by members of our Network-wide Working Group. Breakout sessions focused on how greater multiculturalism within the United States can both be incorporated into exchange programming and elevated inside our organizations. The Working Group has developed programmatic and organizational toolkits for members, and I am extremely grateful for their dedication to our missions and energized to see what we can continue to do together.  

In that spirit of collaboration, we’re excited to officially share our new partnership model. We designed this model to create space in our Network for organizations whose missions overlap with ours in the fields of foreign affairs, public diplomacy and international exchange, and community support and unification. Our new partners include World Savvy, the University of Southern California’s Center on Public Diplomacy, the World Affairs Councils of America, the Public Diplomacy Council of America – and we were excited to feature two of them – Mobility International USA and International Arts & Artists – at the National Meeting. We were also glad to engage our advocacy partners from the Alliance for International Exchange and the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition (USGLC) in activities around the National Meeting. Interested in partnering with us? Please reach out to Ann-Louise (

Career Connections Indianapolis attendees at Gainbridge Fieldhouse. Photo by Maria Eliades.

We continue to expand our Network to U.S. citizens who are alumni of U.S.-government sponsored exchange programs. Through our work with the Office of Alumni Affairs at the U.S. Department of State, we hosted in April a Career Connections event with our member organization in Indiana, The International Center. The event, Career Connections Indianapolis: Crossover at the Crossroads, included two days of professional development workshops, networking opportunities, and off-site visits to the Indiana Statehouse and Gainbridge Fieldhouse, home to the Pacers. We also received a record number of applications for the Citizen Diplomacy Action Fund, which supports alumni in leveraging their exchange experience to conduct community service projects in the United States and abroad. You can follow along with updates about this year’s grantees here. 

We also remain inspired by the young women who participated in our MENA-USA Empowering Resilient Girls Exchange (MERGE). Our fourth and final cohort ended in May. This virtual exchange program has engaged over 600 young women from the United States, Middle East, and North Africa to cultivate resiliency through strategies involving journaling, exercise, meditation, nutrition, and more. We’re grateful to our partners at the Stevens Initiative at the Aspen Institute for their remarkable support. 

You can read more about our programs and services, in addition to our Network members and partners in our digital publication, Exchange Matters. Some spotlights include pieces on women’s empowerment, climate change and sustainability, and media literacy.  

This summer is shaping up to be just as busy as the spring and promises to bring more great events and content. Here’s a preview of what’s coming up: 

  • Emerging Leaders Summer Campaign – June 1: We kicked off a summer fundraising campaign to raise $35,000 for our Emerging Leaders Program. This program helps develop the incredible talent within our Network and builds a pipeline of globally-minded young professionals who represent the United States. Since 2011, this program has helped over 150 young people pursue careers in a variety of fields, from international exchange programming to higher education. This critical program relies entirely on private donations. You can read about the experience of this year’s cohort at our National Meeting here and donate here.  
  • Career Connections DC – June 23: Focused on Careers in the Federal Government, this annual Career Connections event for U.S. ExchangeAlumni will take place at the U.S. Department of State. Attendees will have the opportunity to hear from federal employees and participate in workshops to provide practical skills on how to enter the federal workforce. We have two more events coming up this fall, which you read about here.
  • Global Ties Forum – June 27: In June we’ll continue our Forum series, which brings together leading experts for conversations on how the United States can cultivate trust and build the relationships necessary to tackle the issues of the 21st century. We’re planning a virtual event on June 27, soon after World Refugee Day, to highlight the extraordinary work of Welcome.US and members of our own Global Ties Network in supporting refugees. More details on that very soon. 
  • Diplomacy Begins Here Regional Summits – August 21-22 (Vermont) and September 21-22 (Kansas City): In August we’ll be in Burlington, Vermont for our Diplomacy Begins Here Regional Summit, hosted in partnership with the Vermont Council on World Affairs. The following month, in September, we’ll be in Kansas City, Missouri for a Summit hosted by Global Ties KC. These Summits are opportunities for members of our Network to engage their local communities, deepen networks, and learn more about U.S. foreign policy and the benefits of exchange programs for the communities that host them. 
  • Exchanges Team Activity: Our Exchanges team is in the middle of a busy schedule conducting study tours for the Law Enforcement and Security Exchange Program (LESEP), organizing travel for the Water Smart Engagement (WiSE) Program, and sharing out stories and content from the final MERGE Cohort. Follow the links to learn more about each of these incredible programs.  

And that’s a wrap! Remember to stay updated on all our work by connecting with us on our social channels (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram), and by signing up for our email communications. I’ll update this corner in the fall. Have a wonderful summer.