Cultural Vistas Blog

Envisioning New Vistas in Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion

At Cultural Vistas we strive to enrich minds, develop global skills, and connect lives. Each year we connect thousands of young professionals to opportunities that deepen their understanding and appreciation of the many unique cultures that call our planet home. Our purpose has always been to create shared understanding and bring people together to work together in a global community.

The painful events of this past spring and summer have saddened and angered us as systematic racism persists, and we are reminded of the cultural divides in our own backyard weaken and diminish both our nation and the world. The recent moment has made clear: real understanding requires justice; lasting connection is rooted in equality.

As we continue on a journey to better develop intercultural competence and bring a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive lens to our work, we share our commitment to facilitate more access to international experiences through our partnership with the Thurgood Marshall College Fund.

Guiding us in this work is Dr. N Joyce Payne, Cultural Vistas Board Member and founder of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF), designed exclusively for exceptional students at the nation’s 47 publicly-supported Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCUs). Dr. Payne has a long career in fighting for equality and previously served as Vice President, Office of the Advancement of Public Black Colleges and Council of Student Affairs of the Association of Public & Land-Grant Universities as well as Executive Director of the National Alliance for Public Trust.

Increasing access to meaningful learning opportunities for underserved populations is a priority we pursue with renewed fervor. Read on for a statement from Dr. Payne with her vision for an improved world with global engagement.

Statement from Dr. N Joyce Payne on Diversity in Global Leadership

While America speaks with pride about liberty and justice and the richness of our diversity, we continue to experience pervasive social injustices and bigotry that have the power to crush the aspirations and dreams of millions of young men and women of color. The conscience of America is stunned by the senseless and graphic murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and far too many others at the hands of public servants, their lives represent the hallowed promise of the Declaration of Independence “…that all men are created equal…”

This is no time for business as usual. The relentless pandemics of the virus and social injustice have created a firestorm across the world and widened cracks in the very foundation of democracy. We must envision a new, bold narrative that challenges regressive social policies and undermines globalism as a deterrent to international engagement; one that is more diverse, equitable and inclusive than before.

We must look for new ways to promote the value of inclusion and international cooperation in the midst of oppressive policies that overshadow the benefits of diversity. Those of us who believe in a true democracy must challenge the status quo and dissect deeply rooted structural inequities at the highest levels of government and industry.

Global experiences are integral to changing this status quo. The skills one acquires through meaningful global engagement either through international exchange programs or global collaboration are irreplaceable in building critical skills and competencies that build careers and provide pathways to leadership. To aid in this endeavor, Cultural Vistas and the Thurgood Marshall College Fund are working together to expand access to international experiences, global skill-building and career mentorship.

The TMCF represents a network of member-schools including the 47 publicly supported HBCUs/PBIs, medical and law schools, serving as a resource for nearly 300,000 students. I joined the board of Cultural Vistas in 2019 to strengthen global engagement throughout our network. Our new global initiative with Cultural Vistas will provide access, resources, and international experiences for our network to participate in and become global leaders in their fields.

America’s regressive policies and practices are not only a threat to the nation’s economic growth and security, it undermines nearly a century of political and economic cooperation with our allies and budding democracies. G. John Ikenberry, says, “The age of contagion demands more internationalism, not less.”

As America grapples with massive disruptions at every level of the society, Cultural Vistas brings progressive voices together to tackle these strategic questions with a laser focus on prompting new policies and programs that have the power to give the next generation of children of the world valid reasons to hope, to live, to prosper in a democracy that truly believes in creating a richer, more vibrant and inclusive vision of exceptionalism.

Through this collaboration, young Black men and women won’t just hear the hallowed promise of America, they will see themselves in it and they will lead the way.

For more on Thurgood Marshall College Fund, visit

Further the Discussion at the Cultural Vistas Virtual Awards Benefit

The theme of diversity, equity and inclusion as it relates to international exchange will be further explored at the Cultural Vistas Virtual Awards Benefit October 22+23, 2020. Established in 2018, this annual event recognizes individuals and institutions for their influence and notable contributions toward the advancement of global skills, leadership development, and cross-cultural understanding. This signature event brings together leaders from across the business, education, government, and diplomatic communities for an evening celebrating the diversity of people, ideas, knowledge, and skills shared through international exchange.

To learn more, purchase tickets or donate to our mission, visit




Cultural Vistas Announces the 37th Class of Robert Bosch Foundation Fellows

NEW YORK — Cultural Vistas is pleased to announce the 13 emerging leaders of the 37th class of the Robert Bosch Foundation Fellowship Program.

The latest cohort of Fellows have backgrounds in the fields of law, government, international security, urban and regional planning, cultural management, and the NGO sector, among others. Upon arriving in Germany, they will join a prestigious group of more than 600 young Americans who have completed the transatlantic journey as Bosch Fellows since the inaugural program in the summer of 1984. This 37th class also marks the final year of the Bosch Foundation Fellowship Program.

The program is fully funded by the Robert Bosch Stiftung, one of the largest foundations in Germany—which is committed to enhancing transatlantic relations in an effort to help create joint solutions to global problems.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the program structure has been altered to a nine-month model, starting on October 1, 2020 and ending on June 30, 2021. After two months of intensive private language tutoring in their hometowns, the Fellows will take group language classes in Berlin in October. The Fellows will then participate in a series of three professional seminars beginning in December and complete one or two high-level practical assignments at leading German institutions starting in January 2021.

Each seminar will last 3 to 5 days and is designed to expose the fellows to an array of German and transatlantic issues, as well as enhance their leadership development. During the professional assignments, Fellows will work directly in their field of expertise alongside key decision-makers from Germany’s public and private sectors.

Introducing the 37th Class of the Robert Bosch Foundation Fellowship, including:

Natalia Aguirre
Annandale, Virginia

Education: MPA, University of Southern California; BA in International Affairs, The George Washington University
Professional Experience: Director of Family Justice Center Alliance, Alliance of HOPE International; Director of Polyvictimization Initiative, Alliance of HOPE International
Fellowship Field: Public Policy
Fellowship Focus: Public Policy and Administration

Andrew Beeler
Nashville, Tennessee

Education: JD, American University; BA in Government and German Studies, Centre College
Professional Experience: Legislative Attorney, Tennessee General Assembly; Legal Research Specialist, Bloomberg BNA
Fellowship Field: Law
Fellowship Focus: Comparative Law

Elizabeth Bieber
Brooklyn, New York

Education: MA in Urban Planning (Housing Design), University of California at Los Angeles; BA in Anthropology, Smith College
Professional Experience: Director of Special Projects, NYS Homes and Community Renewal; Housing Fellow, NYC Dept. of Housing Preservation and Development and NYC Housing Development Corp.
Fellowship Field: Urban Planning
Fellowship Focus: Urban Planning and Housing Policy

Peter Bird
Nashville, Tennessee

Education: Master of Urban and Regional Planning, University of Colorado Denver; BA in Linguistics, Brigham Young University
Professional Experience: Active Transportation Planner, Metro Nashville Planning Department; Planning and Policy Manager, BikeDenver
Fellowship Field: Urban Planning
Fellowship Focus: Urban Planning and Transportation Policy


Colin Brush
Washington, District of Columbia

Education: Master of Music in Opera, University of Maryland; Bachelor of Fine Arts in Vocal Performance, Carnegie Mellon University
Professional Experience: Artistic Administrator, Washington National Opera, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts; Aptitude Consultant, Johnson O’Connor Research Foundation
Fellowship Field: Arts Administration
Fellowship Focus: Arts Administration and Social Impact

Brittany Ford
Toledo, Ohio

Education: MA in International Educational Development, Columbia University; BA in Political Science and History, Eastern Michigan University
Professional Experience: Co-Lead, Vibrant Ohio & Welcome Toledo-Lucas County; Policy and Program Analyst, Lucas County Department of Planning and Development
Fellowship Field: Public Policy
Fellowship Focus: Migration and Integration

Melissa Hanlon
Arlington, Virginia

Education: MA in Security Policy Studies, The George Washington University; BA in International Politics, The Pennsylvania State University
Professional Experience: Deputy Director for North and West Europe, U.S. Department of Defense; Country Director for Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, U.S. Department of Defense
Fellowship Field: International Security
Fellowship Focus: Regional Security Policy

Lyle Leitelt
Alexandria, Virginia

Education: Master of City and Regional Planning, University of North Carolina; BA in Geography and Political Science, The George Washington University
Professional Experience: Community Planner Lead, Federal Railroad Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation; Transportation Planner, AECOM
Fellowship Field: Urban Planning
Fellowship Focus: Urban Planning and Transportation Policy

Oksana Mironova
New York, New York

Education: Master of Urban Planning, Hunter College, City University of New York; BA in Liberal Arts, The New School
Professional Experience: Housing Policy Analyst, Community Service Society of New York; Development Writing Manager, Enterprise Community Partners
Fellowship Field: Public Policy
Fellowship Focus: Public Policy and Urban Planning

Deeneaus Polk
Pascagoula, Mississippi

Education: MPP, Harvard University; BA in International Studies, German, University of Mississippi
Professional Experience: Founding Director, Mississippi Apprenticeship Program; Policy Analyst, Mississippi Economic Policy Center
Fellowship Field: Public Policy
Fellowship Focus: Workforce Development

Wendy Serrano
Portland, Oregon

Education: MBA in Organizational Strategy, George Fox University; BS in Communication Studies, Portland State University
Professional Experience: Senior Coordinator for Community Engagement, TriMet; Field Representative, Office of US Representative Earl Blumenauer
Fellowship Field: Public Policy
Fellowship Focus: Public Policy and Administration

Kerensa Wood
Brooklyn, New York

Education: MS in Urban Planning and Historic Preservation, Columbia University; BA in Art History, Rutgers University
Professional Experience: Planning Team Leader, NYC Department of City Planning; Policy Fellow, New York City Council
Fellowship Field: Urban Planning
Fellowship Focus: Urban Planning and Policy

Lessons for Times of Uncertainty: Cultural Vistas Program Alumnus Shares Learnings from International Exchange Participation

Kaylon J. Paterson (third from left) lived in Germany as part of the 34th Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange for Young Professionals (CBYX) fellowship program.

Less than a year ago, the world was struck by a pandemic that would proceed to change our everyday lives for the long term. Coronavirus has thrown everything off course; from cancelled international exchange programs to hiring freezes, not to mention the devastation to global health and security. This has had the effect of casting widespread uncertainty, especially for the younger generations just getting their footing in the professional world.

I decided to write this article after meeting some of the participants of the 36th class of the Congress Bundestag Youth Exchange fellowship (CBYX) while serving as a mentor at Cultural Vistas’ Future of Work #DayofMentorship Virtual Event. The event was aimed at participants who were recently displaced during their time abroad or had their opportunities to go abroad postponed as a result of the pandemic. Though their circumstance was unique, it resonated with the feelings of uncertainty I had experienced upon returning to the United States in 2018 after my year in Breman, Germany.

Anxiety about the expectations of friends and family, knowledge that the post undergrad journey was incomplete and feelings of general uncertainty about the future, all sounded too familiar. I immediately felt compelled to discuss some of the lessons I learned during my time abroad which helped me to navigate through that period of uncertainty following my time overseas and forge my path toward being a professional engineer.

Explore Local

One of the first lessons I learned during my exchange year was to take advantage of my downtime and the opportunities around me. During my time in Germany, there were a number of opportunities to explore Europe. Despite this, I found that the most fun memories I held on to were of the time spent with my peers, both CBYX participants and classmates from the Hochschule, exploring nearby cities and attending local events. From a music themed Flohmarkt (flea market) to Wattwanderung (mudflat hiking), there was so much going on in Bremen alone that I could never have done it all. Similarly, in times like these, where travel may be restricted, I find it rewarding to explore my own city; whether it be the local national parks or driving a little further to expand take-out options for dinner.

Wattwanderung in Cuxhaven, Germany

Take Advantage of Downtime

I also used a lot of my down time in Germany to plan the next steps on my career path and develop skills needed to achieve my goals. Now during quarantine, I find myself using my down time to build teams with friends to tackle new ideas and projects. Even using resources such as LinkedIn and Zoom, I’ve met a number of new people with similar interests who I can interact with to learn and even just network.
More than anything, COVID-19 has given us a lot of downtime by cutting out our commutes and removing us from stressful work and school environments which can hinder creativity and introspective thought. Use this time to learn and develop your ideas and network as best as you can using social and professional resources.


This brings me to another important lesson, networking. One of the main benefits of participating in an international exchange program is expanding one’s network. While in Bremen, I made it a point to connect with classmates, coworkers and people I met at various events. Though we had the obvious commonality of all being aerospace engineers, the lasting relationships I made often came from unlikely connections. Extracurricular interests such as playing the guitar, a love of nature and exploration and an overall enjoyment of sci-fi movies and TV shows all played a part in developing the friendships I still hold dearly to this day.

In fact, upon hearing of Chadwick Boseman’s passing, one of my friends from Germany texted me to reminisce about the time we went to see Black Panther in theaters. The ability to find common ground with new people will allow you to make connections, professionally and personally, even during this time when all we have is the internet.

The author enjoys one of many Sunday jam sessions with Chris & Sebi


Finally, the biggest lesson that anyone should take from this is; be resilient. Resilience is key in any phase of life. Life happens, plans change and people grow, but disruptions don’t have to stop you from being the best version of yourself. When I left Germany at the end of my fellowship, I didn’t have a school to go back to and I was too independent to stay long term with my parents.

The next two years were a rollercoaster of travel across the United States, job hunting, working in a state I’d never even visited and finally starting a grad school program on the other side of the country. Despite all this, I couldn’t allow myself to dwell on inconsistency for too long or I’d miss out on good opportunities and even greater memories.

So, if you find yourself discouraged during this time, unsure what tomorrow will bring or just frustrated with how things are going for you right now, that’s ok. There’s nothing wrong with being scared or uncertain about the future but never let that cripple you. No one knows what tomorrow will bring. Take a step back, catch your breath, assess the situation and in the words of Walt Disney, “keep moving forward.”

About the Author

Kaylon J. Paterson is an Alumni of both the 2016 cohort of STEM LAUNCH study tour and the 34th Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange for Young Professionals (CBYX) fellowship program. He holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Mathematics from Morehouse College and a Master of Engineering Degree from Stevens Institute of Technology. He currently works as an Engineer at the United States Department of Defense. He has previously contributed the article, To the Discouraged: Studying Abroad Will Change Your Life to the Cultural Vistas Blog.

Apply now to Experience Russia on the 2021-22 Alfa Fellowship Program Year!

Fellows in front of the Saint Petersburg Mosque

The Alfa Fellowship Program and Cultural Vistas invite young American, British, and German professionals to apply for the 2021-2022 program year in Russia by December 1.

Since 2004, the Alfa Fellowship Program has provided over 200 emerging leaders from the U.S., U.K., and Germany with the opportunity to gain professional experience in business, media, law, policy, arts/cultural management, and other related areas through an 11-month, fully funded fellowship in Moscow.

The program begins with language training in the fellow’s home country, followed by a group language course in Moscow starting in mid-June. Throughout the summer, Alfa fellows attend a seminar program to gain an in-depth look at contemporary Russia and to discuss current affairs there. Fellows then complete work placements at prominent organizations in Russia, including private companies, media outlets, think tanks, and foundations.

Program Benefits:

  • Gain high-level professional development experience in Russia at private companies, law firms, media outlets, think tanks, and foundations
  • Immerse in contemporary Moscow and experience everyday life in this vibrant capital city
  • Travel to three regions in Russia and to a neighboring country through program organized trips
  • Learn from experts through the Moscow seminar series and lectures at the Higher School of Economics
  • Receive a $2500 monthly stipend, private accommodation in the center of Moscow, , all program-related travel costs including round-trip travel to Russia, and insurance coverage
  • Strengthen Russian language skills through private tutoring prior to departure and group language classes upon arrival in Moscow
  • Connect with alumni around the world through the Alfa Fellowship Alumni Association and Cultural Vistas Alumni Network

Learn more about the fellows’ experience on the Alfa Fellowship Program


  • U.S., U.K., or German citizen between the ages of 25 and 35
  • Bachelor’s degree and 2-3 years of relevant professional experience in business, economics, journalism, law, public policy, arts/cultural management or a related field
  • Graduate degree in desired professional area preferred
  • Outstanding professional achievements and academic qualifications
  • Professional connection to Russia and/or the region
  • Evidence of leadership potential
  • Active involvement in community or public service
  • Russian language experience is preferred, however not required, at the time of application. Applicants proficient in another foreign language may be considered

Required Documents:

  • Application form
  • Current resume/CV in English (U.S. or European style)
  • Personal statement
  • Russian writing sample
  • Official university transcripts from most recent/in progress degree
  • Two letters of recommendation

Application deadline: December 1, 2020.

For further information and to access the online application, please visit

OJSC Alfa-Bank is incorporated, focused and based in Russia, and is not affiliated with U.S.-based Alfa Insurance.

Doing Business, Doing Development: Edmund S. Muskie Intern Discusses Summer Internship at the World Bank

The World Bank Group estimates that the coronavirus pandemic could push as many as 60 million people into extreme poverty. The pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives, and its impact on the developing world lays bare the urgent need to eliminate global poverty through sustainable development.

Rinat Kapev, a 2020 Edmund S. Muskie Intern from Russia, spent his summer interning with the World Bank, helping the organization achieve its goals of reducing extreme poverty and promoting shared prosperity.

In this Q&A, Rinat tells us about his summer internship and his passion for international development.

Tell us about your academic background and expertise.

My academic path has been unique – full of international experiences, challenges, losses, and victories. While earning my undergraduate degree at the Russian Presidential Academy, I served as the president of my university’s Student Scientific Society and spent two semesters in Hungary and Slovakia, and completed a summer internship in Hungary, Slovakia, and Germany. Additionally, I participated in a variety of training courses in many other countries, including Poland, the Czech Republic, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States.

I completed a MS in economics at the Russian Presidential Academy as well, graduating with honors. I recently finished my studies at North Carolina State University, where I received a master’s in international studies. As part of the program, I attended Duke University for three semesters and received certificates in leadership development and cross-cultural competence.

I have always been interested in international relations and development. My passion for international development stems from the desire to promote well-being for all people in the world. When I was considering my potential career path, I knew that working in international relations can help me achieve my goals and utilize my education and skills to make the world a better place.

What contributed to your interest in interning with the World Bank specifically?

I had previous experience working in research, trade, and consulting, and I have been always interested in international relations and development. The World Bank is a well-known intergovernmental organization that has life-changing international development projects in more than 170 countries. Without a doubt, it is the best place for people who are passionate about international development. I thought that an internship at the World Bank would give me a unique chance to be a part of a team that helps millions and changes the world.

Share some of the highlights from your internship experience. Are there any exciting projects you worked on or any interesting things you learned?

I worked with the Doing Business Unit. The Doing Business Unit provides objective measures of business regulations and their enforcement across 190 economies. The team collects and analyses comprehensive quantitative data to compare business regulation environments across economies.  

Within the Doing Business Unit, I worked on the Getting Electricity team. The Getting Electricity team analyzes and benchmarks the electricity sector in 190 countries. The team I was on encourages countries to compete towards more efficient electricity regulations; reforms to streamline the electricity acquisition process; reliable electricity supply; and serves as a resource for everyone interested in the electricity sector of different countries.

Although Rinat was based near the World Bank Group’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., he worked from his home office, pictured here.

Even though I was only an intern, I carried out the full responsibilities and tasks of an analyst. The work was challenging but very interesting. I conducted interviews with government officials and relevant local private sector experts to gather the data my team needed to analyze and compare different countries’ electricity sectors.

By the end of the internship, I had analyzed more than 30 countries and conducted over 50 interviews with government officials and private sector development experts on the electricity acquisition process to evaluate criteria that inform countries’ business and investment climate. To evaluate the criteria, the Getting Electricity team uses a specific methodology and codes collected data in advanced data management applications. We assign scores based on different criteria such as reliability of the electricity supply, transparency of tariffs, price, et cetera. By coming up with an overall score it is easier to benchmark the sector, identify weak points, and propose solutions.

Before each interview, I had to learn about a country’s electricity sector and relevant regulations to keep up with the conversation and ask effective questions. Through this experience I also learned how to diplomatically communicate with foreign governments. By the end of my internship, I had prepared 27 high-level government responses to data updates and data challenges.

Lastly, I produced research write-ups on relevant policy issues, including COVID-19’s impact on the electricity infrastructure sector. I never dealt with the energy sector prior to joining the World Bank, so imagine how much I learned!

How did you adjust to a remote internship? Do you have any tips for getting the most out of the experience?

Working remotely is challenging, especially when starting a new position. However, my team helped me a lot. They organized virtual happy hours, virtual coffees, daily check-ins with other team members, weekly team meetings, and constant communication – all this contributed to building connections and productive work. Despite completing my internship remotely, I managed to embrace the culture of the organization and feel that I was a part of a team. I was even offered a position as an analyst at the end of my internship!

One useful tip that I can give remote interns is to always share your expectations, motivations, and goals with your team and supervisor. If you want more opportunities and you want to continue working with the organization after your internship, tell that to your supervisor. That is what I did. In fact, it is why my team leader assigned to me the full responsibilities of an analyst – because I let everybody know that I was interested in doing a full job and that my interest was to get the most out of the experience and contribute as much as possible.

How will you apply what you have gained from the Muskie Program and your time in the U.S. going forward?

I want to continue working with international organizations and contribute to global development. My Fulbright experience helped me receive an advanced degree and knowledge in international relations, and the Muskie Program allowed me to implement this knowledge in practice.

I have accepted a job offer with the United Nations. I will join the Food and Agriculture Organization’s mission in Europe and Central Asia. My Muskie Internship with the World Bank enhanced my analytical skills and knowledge of business regulations throughout the world. It also introduced me to the complicated global development system and granted access to the network of relevant international relations practitioners. Furthermore, the internship has significantly improved my intercultural skills. I believe this set of improved and gained skills and knowledge will help me effectively contribute to the development of my region.