The International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) promotes mutual understanding through carefully designed visits to the U.S for international visitors that address their professional interests and expand their range of contacts. From its launch in the 1940s, the IVLP has provided leaders from all over the world the opportunity to exchange knowledge and ideas in their professional fields and to build lasting relationships with those they meet. The program, which invites over 4,000 distinguished visitors to the U.S. every year, is funded by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State.
For over 50 years, Meridian has been one of the State Department’s principal partners in implementing this exciting activity; in fact, Meridian now administers roughly 40 percent of all IVLP projects annually. Whether an IVLP participant comes to the U.S. individually or as a member of a group project, each visitor meets with professional counterparts in Washington and other communities across the country. Because most projects include travel to three or four cities, visitors are also able to sample America’s geographic diversity and gain insights into U.S. culture and society.
In a typical year at Meridian, programming teams, which include one Program Officer and one Program Associate, carefully design and implement IVLP projects for more than 1,500 international visitors. Project themes vary widely, but generally focus on issues of importance to the United States, the visitor’s country or the world. Recent visitors have had an opportunity to explore the following themes, just to name a few: Energy Security; Education Today; U.S. Foreign Policy; Breast Cancer Awareness; Investigative Journalism; Intellectual Property; U.S. Financial Regulation; Security, Crime and Counter-Terrorism Issues; NGO Management and Interfaith Dialogue.
Meridian Program Officers research program themes and develop a list of experts and/or organizations with expertise on the topics to be examined. They also search within the Global Ties U.S. network to find cities that can meet the visitor’s programming needs. During an IVLP project, most visitors spend three weeks in the U.S., meeting with experts in their fields of interest from both the public and private sectors, attending cultural events and enjoying the hospitality of American families. Many participants visit U.S. schools and give presentations to American audiences. They may also contribute their time to an appropriate volunteer activity along the way. Throughout their program, participants gain deeper insights into the society and culture of the United States, and an awareness of the diversity of opinions and ideas, even as they inform Americans about their own culture and society.
Following the completion of their sojourn in the United States, many IVLP alumni continue to engage with the U.S. as members of the IVLP alumni association in their country, as participants on the State Alumni community website or simply by corresponding with people they met during their travels.
For more about the International Visitor Leadership Program, please visit the State Department’s IVLP website.
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