American Councils Urges Congress to Support International Exchange and Assistance Programs in Critical World Regions

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AC President Dr. Dan E. Davidson Testifies Before Key U.S. House of Representatives Committee

AC President Dr. Dan E. Davidson testifies before the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs on March 25, 2015

U.S. national security and global competitiveness depend on our ability to understand and engage peoples with diverse histories, cultures, politics, economies, and languages.

Dr. Dan E. Davidson, President of American Councils for International Education, testified before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations on the need for support of international exchange, research, and training programs—with the regions of the world critical for U.S. national security and economic competitiveness. Dr. Davidson drew attention to the importance of academic exchange and educational development activities in Africa, China, the Middle East and, particularly, to East Europe and Eurasia, where bloodshed, immense social dislocation, and serious, potentially long-term political divisions have recently occurred.

Speaking before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs, Dr. Davidson recommended funding for FY 2016 in the State, Foreign Operations bill at $630 million for programs under the U.S. Department of State’s Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA), a level slightly above that requested by the Obama Administration for FY 2016. The Subcommittee is chaired by Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas) with Nita Lowey (D-New York) the ranking member with a total participation of six Committee members.

“U.S. national security and global competitiveness depend on our ability to understand and engage peoples with diverse histories, cultures, politics, economies, and languages,” testified Dr. Davidson. He also noted that the “portfolio of federal programs associated with the National Security Language Initiative is producing results for American students that are unprecedented in the history of U.S. education.”

Dr. Davidson also commented on how the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) and the Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX) programs—with a network of alumni now approaching 40,000 around the world—serve as highly visible educational models of transparency, inclusion, and acceptance of ethnic diversity and physical challenge.

These programs “have created real access to opportunity in countries where, in the past, such opportunities were available only to political elites. In that respect, they represent American values and ideals in action, rather than as words on a page. Moreover, exchange alumni take on increasingly important roles in their home countries in government, business, and the NGO community,” testified Dr. Davidson.

Among assistance programs, Dr. Davidson singled out three initiatives in which American Councils has long-standing administrative experience that are making a major difference within the region and in the organization's own understanding of East Europe and Eurasia: 1) the support of transparent, merit-based scholarships and university admissions testing in Kyrgyzstan, Georgia, and Ukraine; 2) the U.S. role in trans-Atlantic support for the European Humanities University (EHU), which was forcibly closed by the Lukashenko regime in 2004 and operating since as a Belarusian university in Vilnius, Lithuania; and 3) the Title VIII research and training program for U.S. scholars and graduate students committed to the serious study of East Europe, Russia, and Eurasia.

“Title VIII supports policy-relevant research, on-site fieldwork, and advanced language training in areas essential for U.S. policy formation and analysis. At a recent conference convened by the Carnegie Corporation, practitioners in U.S. foreign policy have designated the kinds of region-specific, grounded research supported by Title VIII as the ‘most useful and practical scholarship for their daily work,’” noted Dr. Davidson. American Councils is an administering organization for this long-standing State Department program.

To express your support for international educational exchange programs and activities, join the conversation on Twitter @AC_Global.

About American Councils
American Councils for International Education is a premier, international nonprofit creating educational opportunities that prepare individuals and institutions to succeed in an increasingly interconnected and rapidly changing world. Through academic exchanges, overseas language immersion, and educational development programs, American Councils designs and administers innovative programs that broaden individual perspectives, increase knowledge, and deepen understanding.

For 40 years, American Councils has responded to the needs of the communities where we work with hundreds of robust, international education programs that span over 70 countries, 40 languages, and are represented by over 55,000 alumni worldwide, including government leaders, top international educators, business innovators, public officials, and K-16 students.

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Angie Mareino
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