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THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL

|

APRIL 2016

53

AFSA NEWS

My Encounter with the IVLPVillage

BYAMYSTEINMANN

In January, I attended the

national Global Ties U.S. con-

ference in Washington, D.C.

My participation was made

possible by the American

Foreign Service Association,

which raffled off a couple

of conference registrations

to public diplomacy-coned

members.

I am the assistant cultural

affairs officer responsible for

administration of the Inter-

national Visitor Leadership

Program for Mission Russia.

My team and I run one of the

largest IVLP portfolios in the

world, with an annual budget

of more than $1 million.

In this capacity, I know

all the processes involved

in putting more than 130

Russians on planes annu-

ally and sending them to the

United States, where they

receive direct exposure to

the workings of American

democracy and develop a

deeper understanding of our

country. However, it wasn’t

until I attended the Global

Ties conference that I gained

a true understanding of the

many elements running

stateside to make these

programs happen.

The conference brought

together State Department

officials, national program

agencies (nonprofit organiza-

tions that implement IVLP)

and hundreds of community-

based members—who help

tailor program itineraries

for our international visi-

tors in places like Lawrence,

Kansas, and Pensacola,

Florida—to share ideas,

exchange best practices and

discuss the future direction

of the department’s pre-

mier professional exchange

program.

Although the Jan. 22-23

“Snowzilla” nearly derailed

my plans to attend the con-

ference, I made it to Wash-

ington, D.C., from Moscow

unscathed and was able to

both share my perspective

from post and gain insights

during four days of strategic

dialogue. The presence and

participation of high-level

State Department officials

attested to the importance

accorded by senior leader-

ship to the IVLP and the fact

that the program is viewed

as a highly effective policy

tool.

Hearing from those

who develop the program

content, those who greet

our visitors on the ground

and those who interpret

and serve as their guides

was truly insightful and

eye-opening. I learned of the

challenges that inevitably

arise when bringing groups

of foreigners to the United

States for an intensive, and

at times, emotion-packed

journey, and of the many

successes which make this

work so significant and

rewarding.

One of the greatest

takeaways for me, person-

ally, was the realization

that IVLP truly does take a

village—from government

officials who align IVLP trips

with mission strategic goals,

to program implementers

who design trips that meet

those goals, to the families

who open their homes to our

visitors and truly showcase

American hospitality.

I’d like to thank AFSA

for this opportunity, which

allowed me to engage

in in-depth professional

development, to network

and to make connections

with hundreds of people

devoted to this program. The

conference was incredibly

useful as I seek to enhance

the value and benefit of

IVLP exchanges, both to the

participants and to Mission

Russia.

n

Amy Steinmann is a public

diplomacy officer currently

serving in Moscow. Her

previous assignments have

included Washington, D.C.,

Frankfurt and Georgetown.

The views expressed in this

article are those of the author

and not necessarily those of

the U.S. government.

Embassy Moscow’s Assistant Cultural Affairs Officer Amy Steinmann at

the Global Ties conference, holding a copy of the December issue of

The

Foreign Service Journal

.

AFSA/MARIAC.LIVINGSTON