During their virtual exchange program, participants develop many unique insights into this innovative global education tool. These valuable perspectives are instrumental to practitioners as they work to increase the success and impact of virtual exchange. In October of 2019, over 360 practitioners, administrators, policy makers and students from approximately 30 countries attended the International Virtual Exchange Conference (IVEC) for conversations and knowledge sharing about the ways that virtual exchange provides young people opportunities for intercultural learning and supports the development of 21st-century workforce skills. Four Stevens Initiative alumni joined the two-day conference, held in Tacoma, Washington, acting as experts on a panel and contributing to other sessions as participants. The four alumni are:
- Alicia Meyer, Global Solutions Sustainability Challenge
- Deena Berri, M2GATE
- Haitham Bali (participated virtually), Global Solutions Sustainability Challenge
- Noah Kurzenhauser, The Experiment Digital
The alumni panel was designed to help virtual exchange implementers understand participant perspectives and motivations. The alumni represented their three unique virtual exchange programs and answered questions from an audience of over 70 virtual exchange stakeholders. The topics discussed included participant recruitment, sustaining engagement, overcoming facilitation challenges, expected program outcomes, and understanding student motivations for participation.
As virtual exchange continues to create opportunities for young people to share cultural perspectives and develop 21st-century workforce skills, educators will continue to develop and expand programming. In this process, it is important to prioritize the inclusion of youth participants’ voices. As a result, the alumni panel offered insight from critical voices and was well-attended by conference participants. “I had a few different people talk with me after and thank me for my experience and opinions so they were able to hear voices from first hand experiences,” Alicia said. “I also spoke with a couple of people before our panel that expressed excitement for our panel and told me they had our session in their schedule.”