Last week, PROaupair’s Founder and CEO, Susan Asay, and PROaupair’s Executive Vice President, Heidi Mispagel, had the opportunity to meet with key members of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs in Washington, D.C., as part of the annual meeting of The Alliance for International Exchange, an association of 90 nongovernmental organizations comprising the international educational and cultural exchange community in the U.S.
The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) is part of the Public Affairs arm of the U.S. Department of State, and its mission is to increase mutual understanding between the people of the U.S. and the people of other countries by means of educational and cultural exchange that assist in the development of peaceful relations.
The ECA manages a host of professional, academic, cultural and athletic exchanges, including the J-1 Visa programs, through public-private partnerships and taxpayer funding. The J-1 Visa programs, managed by sponsors such as PROaupair, includes au pair, summer work travel, camp counselors, interns, teachers and many more programs.
The Alliance’s annual meeting was an opportunity for members of the cultural exchange community to engage in open dialogue about the various programs, including participant engagement, alumni initiatives, and best practices.
Evan Ryan, Assistant Secretary of State, presented the keynote address on the first day of The Alliance meetings, and discussed various initiatives being done within the ECA, including programs that protect world heritage sites, virtual leadership programs for people who can’t travel outside of their country, and other efforts to promote American diplomacy abroad.
As part of the meetings, Susan and Heidi had the opportunity to meet with Keri Lowry, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Private Sector Exchange, a new member of the senior leadership team at the ECA. They were impressed with her enthusiasm and energy for the program and look forward to working with her in the future.
As Heidi reflected upon her return: “The annual Alliance meeting is an important event where individuals who have spent their careers in the field of international exchange have an opportunity to come together and collaborate, sharing not only best practices, but also their passion for making a difference in the world and advancing American diplomacy.”