75 Years of IVLP—Applauding a Unique and Worthy Program

While most academics know the Institute through some aspect of the Fulbright Program, my introduction was due primarily to its work on behalf of the United States Information Agency (USIA) International Visitor Program, which has since been renamed the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) and is now managed by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. For some wonderful reason, it was my telephone number at Georgetown that someone from IIE would call when a visitor was seeking to meet with someone at the University or interested in learning more about its School of Foreign Service.

I loved that part of my job. The visitors taught me a great deal about the world we share, and they came from places I thought I would never have the chance to visit. They brought books and university catalogues that were interesting to read and then helped to build the library of our study abroad office and advisers. And when I did tenure reviews, it was not unusual to see that a co-authored publication later resulted from some of the faculty meetings and lunches we were able to arrange. In one case, a small delegation came to forge out how to build their own school of foreign service, found the Georgetown model just right, and went back home with our books and curricula. That school still exists today.

As often as I could, we participated in home hospitality, as did other members of the faculty. When I would see the visitors some years later, many would say it was the most memorable part of their trip. I always asked if that happened when they visited other countries and soon learned that this seems to be a thing that is quite unique to America. My children still think that those evenings were the best part of high school.

As the Institute’s president I have been able to continue to meet with visitors and to also thank them for serving as cultural ambassadors from their countries to help many Americans learn about the world we share. The latest group with whom I met was made up of higher education professionals from 15 countries and all had a deep interest in how they could help encourage more Americans to study abroad.

75 years of bringing the world to American homes is quite an accomplishment to mark. Many visitors went on to become sheikhs, presidents, and prime ministers. But thanks to IVLP and a few evenings in American homes, they became neighbors and friends. You can’t have enough of those, and for that, so many are rightfully grateful to IVLP and the IIE team that serves it.