Study of U.S. Institutes (SUSI)

In partnership with the U.S. Department of State, Meridian International Center welcomes over 100 international student leaders for the exchange of U.S. culture and global leadership skills through the Study of U.S. Institutes (SUSI) for Student Leaders. SUSI includes an intensive four-week academic residency aimed at empowering student leaders to take action in their home communities as well as deepening their understanding of U.S. institutions and culture through a unique first-hand experience. The academic residency is followed by a customized and curated Case Study Tour highlighting diverse American communities as models of resiliency and thematic expertise in areas of interest to participants.

SUSI believes in the unlimited potential of intercultural exchanges in promoting leadership and entrepreneur skills within young leaders worldwide. With the cooperation of five U.S. universities, students can experience an in-depth investigation into pre-selected program themes -  simultaneously offering an insight into American society and values - through a series of interactive classroom activities, community-based projects and site visits to major U.S. cities.

2019 Global Program Themes

  1. Civic Engagement - Bard College (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Russia and Turkey)
  2. Entrepreneurship and Economic Development - University of Massachusetts, Amherst  (Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia);
  3. Religious Freedom and Pluralism - Temple University (Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iraq, and Lebanon);
  4. Youth, Education, and Closing the Skills Gap - University of Washington, Seattle (Brazil, India, Indonesia, Nigeria and Tunisia); and
  5. The John McCain Institute on the Rule of Law and Public Service - University of Nevada, Reno (Bangladesh, Colombia, Malaysia and Poland)

Action is the most important part of enacting change, which is why SUSI is empowering young leaders to expand their professional network to an international setting and to think of creative solutions to today’s global issues. Participants will have a truly immersive experience in the U.S. that includes a home stay, university classes, domestic travel and academic research.

As participants prepare to transition to SUSI alumni, all summer cohorts will reconvene in Washington, D.C for a Closing Forum that provides the opportunity for engaging discussions and workshops to prepare students to fully utilize their skills in professional networking, leadership and cultural diplomacy after the program.

Academic Institutes

Civic Engagement (Bard College 

The primary goal of Civic Engagement in the 21st Century was to engage young leaders in the practice of critical thinking to develop personal agency and clarity of vision. The academic program provided participants with the tools and understanding to allow them to become engaged citizens and leaders in their own communities. Another goal of the program was giving participants the opportunity to interact with people with a wide range of worldviews and experiences different from their own. 

Entrepreneurship & Economic Development (University of Massachusetts, Amherst)  

This program focused on entrepreneurship and its relationship to economic development. The program highlighted the individual and group skills that lead to successful enterprises along with the necessary policies and practices. The primary goal of thprogram was to ensure that participants not only foster an entrepreneurial spirit but also have the resources to encourage others do the same. Secondly, that participantswere able to address economic decisions made by U.S. authorities and citizens in an informed way.   

Religious Freedom & Pluralism (Temple University)  

Participants were introduced to the following key concepts: religious pluralism, the relationship between religion and state, freedom of religion and the First Amendment, separation of powers/checks and balances, one person/one vote, rule of law, the nature of American citizenship, volunteerism in civil society, protection of minority rights (including LGBTQ and disabilities concerns), nonviolent conflict-resolution, civil rights, ethnic diversity, women’s rights, gender dialogue, immigration and interfaith/inter-religious dialogue. 

Youth, Education & Closing the Skills Gap (University of Washington, Seattle)  

Upon completion of this program participants understood the general 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 careers. Participants were exposed to programs addressing gaps in the workforce, adapting to globalization, and innovating at the high school and post-secondary levels, as well as through reskilling and retraining programs and continuing education.  

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

Participants experienced broad integration in the university and broader community. Specific student learning objectives integrated the broader interests of the military academy students, and included defining the “rule of law”, describing the basic organization of the U.S. justice/court system and explaining the difference between state and federal courts. Some of the goals of the program were to equip 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, SUSI participants gained relevant experience about Americans and their relationship to governance, public service, and the rule of law

Case Study Tours (July 21-24, 2019)

Designed in collaboration with university partner Consortium members to complement the Academic Residency, 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, New York City) – New Orleans, LA  

The economic inequality that persisted after Hurricane Katrina had a devastating impact on already vulnerable populations. Participants explored how citizen participation in community building and neighborhood recovery plans has fueled the city’s recovery. 

Entrepreneurship & 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 & 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 will learn how the city has encouraged interfaith dialogue and has protected the rights of minorities and refugees. 

Youth, Education & 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. 

Closing Forum (July 24-27, 2019)

As participants transition to SUSI alumni, all Summer cohorts will reconvene in Washington, D.C. for a three-day Closing Forum and Town Hall Meeting. With members of all the Summer cohorts reconnecting in one place, there will be a renewed opportunity for high-energy, engaging sessions, discussions, and networking between the participants, partners, policymakers, diplomats, and business leaders. Closing Forum will provide participants with an opportunity to share selected Community Action Projects from each Academic Institute as well as attend workshops to prepare them for re-entry and project implementation. 

Follow-On Programming for SUSI Alumni

The SUSI experience does not end when participants leave the U.S. The Meridian SUSI GSLP Consortium has 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 varied opportunities to stay connected with SUSI and other ECA alumni and Institute hosts to 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. 

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Project summary

Study of U.S. Institutes (SUSI) | November -0001
Impact Areas: 9
Program Areas: 9