Cultural Vistas Receives Stevens Initiative Grant to Connect Youth in the U.S., Middle East and North Africa through Virtual Exchange

Grantees will provide youth opportunities to develop skills and cross-cultural relationships that otherwise wouldn’t be possible because of the coronavirus pandemic.

WASHINGTON Today, the Stevens Initiative announced that Learning, Information, Networking, Collaboration (LINC), implemented by Cultural Vistas, is one of 18 programs funded as part of the Stevens Initiative Response to the Coronavirus Pandemic. With this funding, Cultural Vistas will plan and implement a virtual exchange program based in the United States and the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

Around the world, schools and institutions are using virtual exchange to help young people develop cross-cultural relationships and vital skills. While traditional in-person education and exchange programs have been cancelled for the summer, virtual exchange programs like LINC continue to be a sustainable and accessible global learning tool.

“While we cannot predict what lies ahead with the pandemic, we are pleased to work with our grantees to provide virtual exchange opportunities when the world is deeply in need of connection. Together, we are revamping curriculum, leveraging technology, and innovating to build programs that might not have existed otherwise. While each program is unique, we all share in wanting to develop a more globally-minded and resilient generation of changemakers,” said Christine Shiau, Managing Director, Stevens Initiative at the Aspen Institute. “The Stevens Initiative proudly supports our 17 new grantees as they help to drive our mission to provide an international learning experience for young people.”

Under the Stevens Initiative, LINC, implemented by Cultural Vistas, will give young people the opportunity to explore their future STEM careers by collaboratively addressing common global STEM challenges. Cultural Vistas and its partners in Syria and the Palestinian Territories will collaborate over the summer in preparation for LINC by designing and building a virtual resource that addresses cross-cultural competency and career readiness for young people in STEM.

The goal of LINC is to build participant cultural awareness and confidence, allowing MENA students to pursue virtual STEM experiences in the United States and for American students to pursue virtual STEM experiences in the MENA region.

“The pandemic has acted as a great equalizer – no matter what the location, young people around the world are having to re-define how they prepare for their future careers,” said Dan Ewert, Senior Vice President, Program Research, Partnerships and Innovation. “We look to bring together young people from Syria, the Palestinian Territories, and the United States to chart ways to pursue future career paths in STEM fields.”

Through these grants, up to 4,500 new youth participants in 11 MENA countries and the Palestinian Territories and in 24 U.S. states, three tribal communities, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Washington, D.C. will engage with their peers around the world for summer programs that otherwise would not be possible due to the pandemic. Grants were awarded on a rolling basis, and, depending on the grant, virtual exchange programs started as early as June and end as late as August.

A number of grants will support 174 educators to plan and train for fall virtual exchange programs, which remains an urgent need due to a likely continuation of closures and disruptions. Other grants include:

The Stevens Initiative is an international effort to build global competence and career readiness skills for young people in the United States and the Middle East and North Africa by growing and enhancing the field of virtual exchange. Created in 2015 as a lasting tribute to Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, the Initiative is committed to helping to expand the virtual exchange field through three pillars of work: investing in promising programs, sharing knowledge and resources, and advocating for virtual exchange adoption.

Founded in 1963, Cultural Vistas is a nonprofit exchange organization whose mission is to enrich minds, advance global skills, build careers, and connect lives through international exchange. We develop international professional experiences that create more informed, skilled, and engaged citizens. Every year, its 30-plus unique exchange programs empower people in the United States and in more than 130 countries around the world to drive positive change in themselves, their organizations, and society.

LINC is supported by the Stevens Initiative, which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, with funding provided by the U.S. Government, and is administered by the Aspen Institute. The Stevens Initiative is also supported by the Bezos Family Foundation and the governments of Morocco and the United Arab Emirates.

Cultural Vistas - Stevens Institute Grantee 2020

More Information

The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) builds relations between the people of the United States and the people of other countries through academic, cultural, sports, professional and private exchanges, as well as public-private partnerships and mentoring programs.  These exchange programs improve foreign relations and strengthen the national security of the United States, support U.S. international leadership, and provide a broad range of domestic benefits by helping break down barriers that often divide us.  Visit

The Aspen Institute is a global nonprofit organization committed to realizing a free, just, and equitable society.  Founded in 1949, the Institute drives change through dialogue, leadership, and action to help solve the most important challenges facing the United States and the world.  Headquartered in Washington, DC, the Institute has a campus in Aspen, Colorado, and an international network of partners.  For more information, visit

The Bezos Family Foundation supports rigorous, inspired learning environments for young people, from birth through high school, to put their education into action.  Through investments in research, public awareness, systems building and programs, the foundation works to elevate the field of education and improve life outcomes for all children.

The Kingdom of Morocco has held a longstanding commitment to the promotion of peace, mutual understanding and respect across all fora.  In line with this commitment, the Government of the Kingdom of Morocco is a strong supporter of the Stevens Initiative and is proud to be included in its programs, which foster opportunities for cross-cultural exchanges between youth.

The Embassy of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in Washington, D.C. is committed to promoting and increasing cross-cultural understanding and educational exchanges.  In line with the UAE Government’s values, the Embassy supports educational programming at schools and universities across the U.S.  The Embassy works with U.S. institutions to provide unique opportunities for peer-to-peer exchanges and help broaden student’s horizons.