Department of State news

On various occasions during her recent travels to Southeast Asia, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton underlined how important people-to-people exchanges are to building close ties between the United States and South-East Asian countries.

Speaking at the U.S.-ASEAN Ministerial Meeting in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Clinton expressed the U.S.’ commitment to deepening our “people-to-people engagement,” explaining that:

“Brilliant, fearless, and passionate” is how Suzanne Philion, Senior Advisor for Innovation at the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA), described the Department of State’s inaugural class of 25 TechGirls from the Middle East and North Africa, who arrived in the U.S. in late June.

In a video message recorded on the occasion of the third EducationUSA Forum, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton once more underlined the importance of bringing international students to the United States for study and the critical work of the EducationUSA Advising Centers in more than 170 across the globe.

The Department of State issued a new guidance directive this afternoon (available here; direct to PDF here), clarifying the visa status of Chinese teachers at campus-based Confucius Institutes. Specifically, the directive states that Chinese language teachers “sponsored by university or college sponsors who are teaching at primary or secondary schools are not required to depart the United States at the end of this academic year, unless that was their intended date of departure.”

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Wang Yongli, deputy chief executive of the Office of Chinese Language Council International, said he was “taken by surprise and quite shocked” by the release last week of a State Department directive that would require all Chinese-language schoolteachers affiliated with campus-based Confucius Institutes and holding J-1 visas to leave the country within weeks, the Chronicle of Higher Education reports.

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The Senate State-Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee funded educational and cultural exchange programs at $625 million for FY 2013, $38 million above the President’s FY13 request and $26.2 million above the final FY 2012 appropriation for exchanges of $598.8 million.

While some of the statistics were grim (e.g., only 8 per cent of U.S. undergraduates study a foreign language, half of what it was in 1965), hope for the future was abundant as students, teachers, and international education leaders testified yesterday at a hearing titled “A National Security Crisis: Foreign Language Capabilities in the Federal Government.” That hopefulness seemed to culminate with the testimony of Shauna Kaplan, a 5th grader at Providence Elementary School in Fairfax County, Virginia, who confidently spoke to hearing chair Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-HI) in Chinese and neatly offered a call to action by proclaiming, in her second language:

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Earlier this week, the Department of State announced a new exchange initiative that brings 34 women entrepreneurs from the Americas to the U.S. in order to develop business networks with their U.S. counterparts.

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The new Interim Final Rule (IFR) for the Summer Work Travel (SWT) program, released by the Department of State on the ECA website last Friday, appears in today’s Federal Register (FR). The full FR notice can be accessed online here.

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Forty American students from 31 different universities will serve as “a ‘public face’ for the U.S. as it seeks to promote people-to-people exchanges with visitors” during the 2012 World Expo in Yeosu, Korea, which starts this Saturday and runs until August 12. The Korea Times reports that the American students will “greet visitors, government officials and other dignitaries as well as provide administrative, protocol and programming support.”

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