Study of U.S. Institutes (SUSI)

In partnership with the U.S. Department of State, Meridian International Center welcomes over 120 international undergraduate student leaders each year to engage with U.S. culture and develop global leadership skills through the Study of U.S. Institutes (SUSI) for Global Student Leaders program. The SUSI program is founded on a belief in the unlimited potential of intercultural exchanges to promote leadership and entrepreneurship skills in young leaders. Through partnerships with five U.S. universities and a series of interactive classroom activities, community-based projects, and site visits to U.S. cities of all sizes, SUSI students experience an in-depth investigation into program themes and enhance their understanding of American values.

Each SUSI for Global Student Leaders program includes an Opening Forum in Washington, DC, a four-week intensive Academic Institute at a partner university, a Case Study Tour in a third city, and the development of Community Action Projects.

The summer program launches in Washington, D.C. with an Opening Forum that gathers members of all Institutes in one place. During this time, participants have the chance to engage in high-energy sessions, discussions, and networking with peers from around the world. After the Opening Forum, students attend an intensive four-week Academic Institute aimed at deepening their understanding of U.S. institutions and culture and empowering them to take action in their home communities. The Academic Institute is followed by a curated Case Study Tour highlighting diverse American communities as models of resiliency and thematic expertise in areas of interest to participants. During the SUSI program and with support from staff at the Academic Institutes, each participant designs and plans a Community Action Project that employs what they learn from SUSI to create positive change in their home community. As SUSI alumni, participants are eligible to apply for Mini Grants to support the implementation of these projects.

The winter program follows a similar format but includes only one Academic Institute which all participants attend together.

SUSI Alumni Engagement

The SUSI experience does not end when participants return home. Meridian and university partners have developed a series of continuous mentorship, networking, and learning opportunities to transition participants to alumni, in addition to encouraging them to join the Department of State’s International Exchange Alumni network. Participants have many opportunities to stay connected with SUSI and other ECA alumni and Institute hosts as they use the knowledge gained during the program to give back to their communities. Upon return to their home countries, participants are eligible for post-program engagement components to support ongoing leadership development and the implementation of Community Action Projects.

Community Action Projects

Consistent throughout the Academic Institutes, participants are expected to produce a final Community Action Project. Parameters for the Community Action Projects are defined by each University and inspired by teachings, trainings, observations, and conversations each participant has during the Academic Institute and the Case Study Tour. The projects reflect and meet the social, economic, or other needs of participants’ home communities and allow the impact of the SUSI program to extend far beyond each individual’s time in the U.S.


Summer 2021 Academic Institutes

Meridian is excited to virtually welcome students from around the world for five weeks of cross-cultural engagement and immersive learning across five different thematic Institutes:

Civic Engagement – Bard College (Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey)

The primary goal of the Civic Engagement Institute is to engage young leaders in the practice of critical thinking to develop personal agency and clarity of vision. The academic program provides participants with the tools and understanding necessary to allow them to become engaged citizens and leaders in their own communities. Another goal of this Institute is to give participants opportunities to interact with people with a wide range of worldviews and experiences different from their own.

Entrepreneurship and Economic Development – University of Massachusetts, Amherst (Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, and Tunisia)

This Institute focuses on entrepreneurship and its relationship to economic development. The program highlights the individual and group skills along with the necessary policies and practices that enable successful enterprises. The primary goal of the Institute is to ensure that participants not only develop an entrepreneurial spirit but also have the resources to encourage others to do the same. During the Institute, participants learn to discuss economic decisions made by U.S. authorities and citizens in an informed way.

Religious Pluralism in the U.S. – Temple University(Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iraq, and Lebanon)

Participants in this Institute are introduced to key concepts related to religious pluralism in the U.S., including volunteerism in civil society, protection of minority rights (including LGBTQ and disabilities concerns), nonviolent conflict-resolution, civil rights, and interfaith/inter-religious dialogue. Throughout the Institute, participants use what they learn about religious pluralism and institutions in the U.S. as a starting point to engage in discussions of norms and institutions of religion in their own communities.

Education and the Future of Work – University of Washington, Seattle(Brazil, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Russia, and Tunisia)

In this Institute, participants explore the history of labor movements in the U.S., the economic impact of skills-based training programs, and the role of education in preparing young people for successful careers. Participants are exposed to programs addressing gaps in the workforce, adapting to globalization, and innovating at the high school and post-secondary levels, as well as reskilling and retraining programs and continuing education.

Rule of Law and Public Service – University of Nevada, Reno(Bangladesh, Bulgaria, Kuwait, and Malaysia)

In honor of the late Senator John McCain, student learning objectives of this Institute include defining the “rule of law,” describing the basic organization of the U.S. justice system, and explaining the difference between state and federal courts. This Institute equips students with a solid foundation of various aspects of the judiciary branch, role of media, differences between a criminal matter or civil matter and outlining the importance of transparency in justice. In addition to the academic goals, participants learn about Americans’ relationships to governance, public service, and the rule of law.

Highlights from Past Years

2020 Virtual Alumni Programming

Meridian and university partners engaged alumni of the Summer 2019 and Winter 2020 SUSI cohorts through a variety of virtual opportunities, including webinars featuring distinguished guest speakers, roundtable discussions on topics of interest, virtual site visits, and various sessions and activities to support students’ Community Action Projects.

Topics covered in these virtual sessions include “Community Engagement through Art and Culture,” “Leading through Uncertainty: Responding to Challenges by Learning from One Another,” and “Embracing Challenges as an Opportunity.”

Winter 2020 Community Engagement

Meaningful engagement with a diverse range of Americans is a critical piece of the SUSI experience. Winter 2020 SUSI participants had ample opportunities for such engagement. Through a range of activities organized by their host institution, the University of Washington, Seattle, participants were able to learn first-hand about the American experience while also giving back to their host communities.

During the four weeks of their Academic Institute, participants interacted regularly in group settings and individually with student ambassadors from the University of Washington as well as host families in the area. Additionally, the SUSI student leaders volunteered at food banks, participated in MLK Day of Service projects, taught local elementary students about their home countries, met with local government leaders, and practiced networking with local professionals.

Summer 2019 Case Study Tours

Designed in collaboration with university partner Consortium members to complement the Academic Institutes, SUSI Case Study Tours offer participants a 3-day, hands-on examination of examples of Institute themes in a community geographically and/or demographically different from that of their host university. Each case study showcases a local community’s response to tragedy, trends, or other societal impacts and new perspectives.

Civic Engagement (Bard College) – Baltimore, MD

A successful urban redevelopment program has radically changed the face of the city; however, social inequalities persist. Participants explored how the citizens have engaged to find solutions to issues such as housing, policing, education, racial justice, unemployment, and healthcare.

Entrepreneurship and Economic Development (University of Massachusetts, Amherst) – Detroit, MI

After decades of economic decline, culminating in America’s largest municipal bankruptcy in 2013, Detroit is undergoing a transformation. Participants explored how companies and NGOs collaborate to help Detroit reclaim its stature as Michigan’s economic and cultural hub.

Religious Freedom and Pluralism (Temple University) – Salt Lake City, UT

Founded by followers of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints seeking to escape religious persecution, religious freedom is paramount here. Participants learned how the city has encouraged interfaith dialogue and has protected the rights of minorities and refugees.

Youth, Education, and Closing the Skills Gap (University of Washington, Seattle) – Milwaukee, WI

Milwaukee is home to numerous educational and vocational institutions. Participants explored how the public and private sectors collaborate to support vocational skills training, promote the arts, and provide mentorship to decrease the skills gap.

Rule of Law and Public Service (University of Nevada, Reno) – Atlanta, GA

Historic home to civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., this Southern capital continues to be an important center for civic activism. Participants explored how the public and private sectors can work to affect public policy and improve rule of law.

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Learn more

Study of the U.S. Institutes (SUSI) for Global Student Leaders is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State with funding provided by the U.S. Government and supported in its implementation by Meridian International Center.





Project summary

Study of U.S. Institutes (SUSI)
Impact Areas: Education
Program Areas: Global Leadership
Temple group meal