A Message from Our President & CEO
Robert Fenstermacher | President & Chief Executive Officer
We are Cultural Vistas.
Three years ago, we embarked on a bold new journey, bringing together two long-standing exchange organizations to create a new organization that would strengthen, grow and improve our existing programs and allow us to develop new ones, expanding and diversifying our portfolio of international exchange opportunities.
At the time, we were told that more than half of all mergers fail and those that don’t, take at least three years to complete the transition and to establish a new culture and identity.
As with all mergers, we have had our share of challenges along the way, but as we move into our fourth year, I can proudly say that our union has been a success thanks to the hard work and commitment of everyone at Cultural Vistas.
In terms of growth since our merger, the number of participants served by our programs has increased by 35 percent, our annual revenue has increased by 72 percent, and our staff has expanded by more than 40 percent. We have instituted new partnerships and secured a greater variety of funding sources, allowing us to add a number of new exchanges to our program portfolio. And in 2013, we established our first overseas subsidiary with a European office based in Berlin. Our programs now touch people in nearly 140 countries.
The creation of Cultural Vistas, however, was about much more than just growth. It was about creating a new shared culture that would better enable us to fulfill our mission to enrich minds, advance global skills, build careers, and connect lives through international exchange. Our core values embody who we are as an organization and serve as the principles that influence the implementation of our programs.
In three short years, we have come a long way. We have established a new culture and identity and have greatly enhanced our ability to positively impact and change people’s lives through the international experiences we provide.
As we continue our journey, we invite you to join the Cultural Vistas family and to help us create more opportunities for people to inquire, learn, experience, and understand the interconnected world we live in.
We all can and do make a difference.
We annually serve more than 5,000 students, professionals, and emerging leaders through career-focused internships, educational study tours, language immersion and cultural exchange programs in the United States and around the world.
To enrich minds, advance global skills, build careers, and connect lives through international exchange.
To create memorable and transforming global learning opportunities that enrich career and encourage leadership development. We firmly believe that those who travel to other countries to deeply inquire, learn, experience, and understand other cultures and practices will be the ones to lead and succeed in our increasingly interconnected world.
At Cultural Vistas, we are committed to empowering individuals and impacting lives through international exchange. Our core values serve as a foundation for our organizational culture and as the principles that guide all of our nonprofit's work and actions on a daily basis.
We are dedicated to providing all of our stakeholders with the highest level of professionalism and commitment in all that we do.
We encourage individuals from around the world to work together through our exchange programs, and value a team-based approach in everything we do.
We provide personally and professionally transformative experiences through a "learning by doing" philosophy.
Diversity and Multiculturalism
We bring together people representing cultures and languages from around the world to learn new perspectives, share knowledge, and exchange best practices.
Since 2010, Cultural Vistas programs have experienced nearly 35 percent growth in participants.
A total of 15,252 students and professionals from more than 140 countries have participated in Cultural Vistas exchange programs in the past three years.
Of note: The 2010 figure represents the combined total of Cultural Vistas' predecessor organizations.
Top Sending Countries for Participants
In 2013, 5,040 international students and professionals from 138 different countries participated in Cultural Vistas exchange programs in the United States.
Top Destination Countries for Participants
In 2013, 333 U.S. students and professionals participated in professional internship and fellowship programs in 30 countries around the world through Cultural Vistas.
Our staff continues to grow.
As of January 2014, Cultural Vistas employed 74 full-time staff members – representing a 42.3 percent post-merger increase. For many of us, it has been the impact of our own personal and professional experiences abroad that has led us to careers in international exchange.
Our capacity to fulfill our mission has never been greater.
Over the past three years, sustained revenue growth has increased our capacity to inspire personal and professional development and build understanding through international exchange with corresponding increases in budget and staff size, infrastructure, and the diversity of our programs and funding streams.
For the year ending December 31, 2013, Cultural Vistas spent 87 percent of its budget on mission-based programs and services, and only 13 percent on administrative and support services.
By the Numbers: Cultural Vistas Programs in 2013
Our exchange programs take many different forms. Here's what the average Cultural Vistas program looked like in 2013.
In 2013, 4,427 individuals from 105 countries participated in career-building exchange programs in the United States through our Train USA program. Moreover, intern and trainee exchanges took place with 1,157 different host companies, spanning 45 different states plus the District of Columbia, Guam, Saipan and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
In 2012-13, Cultural Vistas successfully completed its second year as an implementing partner for the U.S. Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program. Over the course of the year, our staff arranged 30 projects for 192 international visitors from 81 countries spanning six continents - nearly half of whom had never been to the United States.
Through its role as one of three designated sponsors for the Korea WEST (Work, English, Study, Travel) exchange program, Cultural Vistas enabled 138 university students and recent graduates to explore future careers and develop lifelong skills through English language training and acculturation, placement in professional internships, and the opportunity to sightsee across the United States before returning home.
Cultural Vistas continued its tradition of bringing international students and young professionals in the United States on J-1 intern and trainee exchanges into elementary school classrooms to lead activities and discussions about their home cultures. In 2013, Cultural Vistas accompanied more than 40 interns and trainees from seven nations on visits to schools in New York, Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.
The Cultural Vistas Fellowship, a new initiative funded directly through organizational revenue, sent its inaugural class of seven fellows abroad to Argentina, Germany, and Singapore to gain professional experience through eight-week internships in the field of sustainability.
The Robert Bosch Foundation Fellowship Program sent 19 Americans to Germany for a professional development program aimed at fostering transatlantic relations marking a 30-year partnership with the Robert Bosch Foundation in Stuttgart.
Through its role as the U.S. administrator in the Alfa Fellowship Program, Cultural Vistas sent a group of 14 emerging leaders, consisting of 10 Americans and four Britons to Russia for an 11-month immersion program that includes high-level work placements and intensive language training.
The Global Career Launch program provided 73 university students from five different countries (predominantly China and Hong Kong) with eight-week internship and cultural immersion experiences in Chicago, Seattle, and Washington, D.C. during the summer of 2013.
Through its Internships Abroad and Independent Work Abroad programs, Cultural Vistas provided summer and year-long internship placements for 116 students and young professionals in Argentina, Chile, France, Germany, Spain and Switzerland in 2013.
Cultural Vistas facilitated internships in 24 different countries for 53 American students and welcomed 59 international students from 28 countries as part of its role as the U.S. representative for the International Association for the Exchange of Students for Technical Experience, a longstanding reciprocal exchange program for technical students.
Cultural Vistas staff accompanied 18 high school students and two educators from 15 different states to Southeast Asia for three weeks over the summer as part of the American Youth Leadership Program with Singapore and Malaysia, a U.S. Department of State grant initiative focused on the two nations’ approaches to sustainable development.
William Miller, Professor at Cornell University
U.S. Internship Host
The Department of Horticulture at Cornell University has hosted Dutch interns for 16 years. They provide training in horticulture, specifically in the advancement of flowerbulb development. The institute hosted Dutch intern Jurina Roos de Wit for seven months.
“Through our cooperative arrangement with the association representing all Dutch flowerbulb exporters, we are fortunate to host an intern each year. Cultural Vistas has been a great partner in providing visa support for these interns. Roos de Wit is really excellent personally and professionally. She knows a great deal about tulips, and is a former Dutch tulip judging champion. She has been an integral part of our research program and, perhaps more importantly, has learned great skills that help to move the Dutch bulb industry forward.”
Jillian Reilly, Cultural Vistas Fellowship
Intern in Singapore
University of Minnesota student Jillian Reilly was one of seven American students in the inaugural class of the Cultural Vistas Fellowship. Jillian spent the summer of 2013 completing an environmental education internship abroad in Singapore at the Waterways Watch Society.
“Having never traveled beyond the borders of the U.S., I had an unfulfilled desire to go abroad. At the same time, I wanted to make productive use of my time by engaging in a work or study-related program. The Cultural Vistas Fellowship program afforded both the opportunity to travel to Singapore and a connection to an internship with a local non-profit. I hoped that being exposed to the work culture of a different country would provide a more profound appreciation and understanding of its whole culture; this assumption turned out to be right.”
Yujin Jung, Korea WEST
Intern from South Korea
Round 11 Korea WEST (Work, English, Study, Travel) program participant Yujin “Rachel” Jung spent four months taking English classes in Washington, D.C. before interning with Voice of America. She focused on making the most of her time in the United States, attending forums, volunteering, and sharing Korean culture in local schools during International Education Week.
“I have learned how to develop articles, do voice announcing, and even professional reporting. As a result, I’ve decided that I’d like to be an international broadcast journalist. To achieve this goal, I will do my best to perform as well as I can, while trying to learn as much as I can. Even though there are times when I feel like the challenges I am facing are too hard to overcome, I tell myself that there are lots of things I can learn even while struggling. I believe these experiences will make me stronger and motivate me not to give up. I will enjoy every challenge I face while I’m here in the United States.”
Bosede Oboh, International Visitor Leadership Program
2012 Emerging Leader from Nigeria
In its first two years as an IVLP National Program Agency, Cultural Vistas has already witnessed the impact of its role in this longstanding public diplomacy effort.
In July 2012, Bosede Oboh, CEO of ACASC Farms in Nigeria, came to the United States for a three-week visit focused on the farm-to-table movement along with emerging leaders from 12 other African nations. The visit led to long-lasting relationships, new opportunities, and ideas for solutions she could implement once back home to help provide a better life for local agrarian communities.
“The exposure I had during the program changed my thinking and opinions of America and its people. I count it as a rare privilege and great opportunity for me to change my little world by the things I have experienced in the bigger world.”
Cultural Vistas is committed to providing both its American and international interns and trainees with a balance of meaningful learning opportunities during their exchange programs – both in and outside the workplace.
Engaging and encouraging our host organizations to promote cultural enrichment within and outside the workplace remains an ongoing priority. As a result, 2013 saw U.S. host companies continue to embrace their role as ambassadors and organize opportunities for international interns and trainees to enjoy their communities and learn more about American culture.
Sadara Chemical Company, a joint venture between Dow Chemical and SAUDI ARAMCO and new host organization, provides monthly cultural activities for interns from Saudi Arabia who are receiving on-the-job training at Dow facilities in Texas and Louisiana. This program, which is slated to go through 2014, is preparing participants for their careers at the petrochemical facility once it opens.
In 2013, Sadara Chemical organized a weekend event at a Dude Ranch in Texas, where the participants embraced the culture of the American cowboy including riding horses, roping, Texas longhorns, local cuisine, line dancing and a mariachi band.
In 2013, Cultural Vistas hosted more than 75 formal professional development, networking, and cultural orientation events and activities serving more than 1,500 individuals.
All our participants receive comprehensive pre‐departure orientation materials. Additionally, our staff held several online and in-person group orientation seminars across the United States and overseas including those held in Berlin, Tokyo, Ontario, and Seoul, among other locations.
Holding these orientations ensures that participants have ample opportunity to ask questions prior to embarking upon their international experiences, while enabling us to stress the importance of health and safety during their programs.
In 2013, Cultural Vistas hosted a series of gatherings and special events across the United States for members of its exchange community to come together, share ideas, network, and contribute to a meaningful dialogue on issues of global interest. Over the course of the year, more than 500 individuals attended events held in New York, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, D.C.
These outings provide opportunities for our staff, international interns, American alumni, hosts and partner organizations to get know each other more closely and interact in an informal setting. It also provides a venue to celebrate the value and importance of exchange programs among an audience of our stakeholders. One example of these events was a panel discussion we hosted on global entrepreneurship in San Francisco.
Cultural Vistas is dedicated to creating global learning opportunities that not only shape careers, but also forever impact the lives of countless students and young professionals every year.
As a nonprofit, 100 percent of our revenue is reinvested into endeavors that advance our mission.
All contributions, big or small, directly influence our ability to maintain and strengthen the quality, diversity, and reach of our international programs and services.
Political science major at John Carroll University
2013 Cultural Vistas Scholarship Fund recipient
"Due to my family’s large size, it has been left up to me to finance my own education. This leaves little room financially for much else. However, through the scholarships and stipends I received, I was able to worry less about finances and focus on seeing Germany firsthand and learning not only about its language and culture, but also its politics. Without the help of Cultural Vistas, it may never have been possible."