Reflecting On My First Year at Cultural Vistas

This November marked my one-year anniversary as CEO at Cultural Vistas. As I reflect on my first year, I’m overcome with pride for this organization and the meaningful work we do. In my first full year, the organization celebrated many firsts of its own.

Leading an organization full of talented and motivated individuals is not a responsibility I take lightly.

In reflecting on 2018, what I am most proud of is the professional and personal growth I have witnessed in Cultural Vistas staff, our exchange participants, and alumni. That, in my mind, is the most important indicator of success.

Below I am thrilled to share a few of the highlights, achievements, and steps we’ve taken toward fulfilling our mission in 2018.

Slovakian intern and IAESTE participant Lubica Komarova, Jennifer (center), and IAESTE President Bernard Baeyens celebrated the 70th anniversary of the longstanding STEM-focused reciprocal exchange program at the inaugural Cultural Vistas Awards Gala in September 2018.

We Celebrated Our Rich 55-Year History of Exchanges.

55 years ago, on May 2, 1963, Cultural Vistas was officially founded.

In addition to our anniversary year, several of our signature exchange programs reached milestones in 2018, including a decade of advancing U.S.-Korean relations through the Korea WEST program and 35 years of the Robert Bosch Foundation Fellowship Program and Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange.

To celebrate the occasion, we brought over 250 alumni, partners, supporters, and friends together at the picturesque Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in September for the first annual Cultural Vistas Awards Gala.

The #CVGala allowed us to share and celebrate the breadth and diversity of our work to advance global skills and understanding, while recognizing the many individuals, like 1995-96 CBYX alumnus Bruce Marsh, and organizations, like Adobe and the University of Waterloo, that make our success possible.

We Started a New Chapter at #233Broadway.

View more photos from our open house celebration in May 2018.

New office, new views, new opportunity.

After more than four decades in Midtown, Cultural Vistas ushered in a new era as we opened a new New York headquarters in one of city’s most iconic buildings – the historic Woolworth Building in downtown Manhattan.

Our new home has provided us with more space and fresh opportunities to engage our alumni, partners, and supporters in new ways.

 

We provided new skills and perspectives to thousands of individuals and organizations around the world.

As Donovan, a Susquehanna University junior and 2018 Cultural Vistas Fellow puts it, “The world has a lot to offer, you just gotta go find it.”

This year, we funded Donovan’s first international experience as part of our sixth class of the Cultural Vistas Fellowship—the largest to date thanks to our donor community.

Through our role as a J-1 Exchange Visitor Program sponsor we brought individuals from more than 100 countries to the U.S. to take part in internships, training programs, and teaching positions—affording them a firsthand experience of America, our people, culture, and business practices.

In addition to preparing young people to navigate an evolving workplace, we helped employers in every sector access global talent. These experiences, like those of budding young Iraqi architects Dalia and Shams at Gensler, allow organizations to experience the world through a new lens.

Jennifer (right) and Cultural Vistas staff who oversee the Alfa Fellowship Program visit with program alumnus Sam Schatz and Asya, an Edmund S. Muskie Program intern at AeroFarms.  Read more about the impact of Sam’s international experience

We Expanded Our Reach in Exciting New Ways.

Our portfolio of programs continued to grow in 2018. We kicked off 2018 the year by producing a mini-documentary series highlighting the impact that across Southeast Asia as part of the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative.

We deepened our presence in the Asia Pacific through our work with the U.S. Embassy Canberra to empower young leaders to carry out projects on everything from early literacy in Vanuatu to preserving Niuean cultural identity as part of the Young Pacific Leaders (YPL) Small Grants Program.

Looking ahead to 2019, we’re thrilled to now be bringing this successful program model to South America, working with the Department of State’s Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs.

Additional highlights included a new offering preparing U.S. and German journalism students to combat the prevalence of disinformation and ‘fake news’.

We Embraced an Uncertain Future with Confidence

It is hard to deny that we face complex problems and increasing uncertainty—whether stateside or as a global community.

This year, Cultural Vistas convened experts and heard from leaders in the media and spanning the private and public sectors at events which engaged over 1,500 people in Berlin, Boston, Chicago, New York City, and Washington, D.C.

Each event was a reminder of the sustainability of our mission, the continued relevance of our work, and the growing and influential community we continue to build and foster.

Whether discussing the potential impact of automation on today’s workforce or how higher education must evolve to prepare students for jobs that might not yet exist, one consistent theme emerged: to solve our most pressing problems we need to bring more of the world together.

If we accept that the future is uncertain, we should at least work on embracing this uncertainty together.

We have ambitious plans for 2019 and we hope you’ll consider being a part of them.

 

View more photos from Cultural Vistas’ signature event in Berlin this past July.

Jennifer Clinton

Jennifer's interest in international relations began at an early age after family vacations in Canada as well as a summer playing competitive basketball in Sweden—where she lived with a host family with whom she remains in touch.

View all posts by Jennifer Clinton

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