Dickinson College to Partner with American University of Sharjah on Virtual Exchange Project

Signs pointing the direction and distance to cities around the world are displayed on top of a tall pole on Dickinson's academic quad.

Signs pointing the direction and distance to cities around the world are displayed on top of a pole on Dickinson's academic quad. Photo by Carl Socolow '77.

Young people from the United States and the Middle East and North Africa will expand worldviews through virtual exchanges implemented by new Stevens Initiative grantees

The Stevens Initiative has announced that the American University of Sharjah (AUS) is one its newest grantees to receive funding for virtual exchanges between young people in the United States and the Middle East and North Africa. AUS’ Transformative Sustainability Project is one of four new Stevens Initiative-funded exchanges awarding funding to institutions based in the UAE that will give young people experiential learning opportunities to explore topics impacting their local and global communities. Dickinson College will partner with AUS on this virtual exchange project.

American University of Sharjah's Transformative Sustainability Project (TSP) gives undergraduate college students in the United Arab Emirates and the United States the tools to transform their local and global contexts into more sustainable communities in the context of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. TSP helps participants shift their perspectives by asking them to grapple with some of the largest global problems and how people from different regions can work together to solve them. Through international collaboration, participants get hands-on experience tackling issues that they otherwise would not engage with in their day-to-day lives. TSP empowers the leaders of tomorrow with tools to address interconnected global challenges and grow in sustainable ways.

“We are excited to add these new programs to a long list of unique virtual exchanges that contribute to our vision of providing an opportunity to empower young people to drive positive change for our future. Each grantee works to create the next generation of globally minded leaders, using virtual exchange as a tool to teach young people about the world around them,” said Christine Shiau, Director of the Stevens Initiative at the Aspen Institute.

Virtual exchange prepares young people for their future lives and careers by exposing them to global, collaborative environments where they can develop friendships, build skills and take on new perspectives. Together, these new virtual exchange programs will immerse young people in topics such as linguistics and the study of symbols, storytelling, the UN Sustainable Development Goals and some of the world’s most pressing global concerns.

With the addition of the American University of Sharjah’s Transformative Sustainability Project, the Initiative will expand its total reach by summer 2023 to nearly 75,000 young people in 17 MENA countries and the Palestinian Territories, and in 49 U.S. states, Puerto Rico, five tribal communities, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Washington, D.C. Overall, 91 grantees have partnered with the Initiative between 2016 and today.

“Virtual exchange can be very effective in creating immersive experiences that leave a lasting and meaningful impression, and we are very thankful to the Stevens Initiative for enabling us to harness its transformative power. With the TSP grant, we are looking forward to engaging, challenging and enriching bright young minds across the world on all aspects of sustainable development," said Kristina Katsos, program manager of the TSP and instructor in the Department of International Studies of the American University of Sharjah.   

Other grants include:

  • Ajman University’s AYM: Actualizing Youth Mobility to Lead and Innovate in the 21st Century is a collaborative virtual exchange program that fosters intercultural understanding, creative collaborations and meaningful communication among students.
  • American University of Sharjah’s Virtual Language Exchange provides participants in the United Arab Emirates and the United States a unique cross-cultural experience by examining diverse worldviews, languages and cultures while critically thinking about media representations that shape their world knowledge.
  • RAK American Academy’s Scheherazade Project brings together 10th- and 11th-grade girls from the United Arab Emirates and the United States to explore the role their female ancestors played in their lives.

The Stevens Initiative is an international leader in virtual exchange, which brings young people from diverse places together to collaborate and connect through everyday technology. Created in 2015 as a lasting tribute to Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, the Initiative invests in virtual exchange programs between the U.S. and the Middle East and North Africa; shares research, resources and promising practices to improve impact; and advocates for broader adoption.

American University of Sharjah (AUS) was founded in 1997 by His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan Bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, member of the Supreme Council of the United Arab Emirates and ruler of Sharjah. Sheikh Sultan articulated his vision of a distinctive institution against the backdrop of Islamic history and in the context of the aspirations and needs of contemporary society in the UAE and the Gulf region. Firmly grounded in principles of meritocracy and with a strong reputation for academic excellence, AUS has come to represent the very best in teaching and research, accredited internationally and recognized by employers the world over for creating graduates equipped with the knowledge, skills and drive to lead in the 21st century.

The Transformative Sustainability Project (TSP) is funded by the Stevens Initiative, with support from the government of the United Arab Emirates. Learn more about the Stevens Initiative, which receives support from additional funders and is administered by the Aspen Institute, at https://www.stevensinitiative.org/.

More Information

The Embassy of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in Washington, D.C. is committed to promoting and increasing cross-cultural understanding and educational exchanges. In line with the UAE government’s values, the embassy supports educational programming at schools and universities across the U.S. The embassy works with U.S. institutions to provide unique opportunities for peer-to-peer exchanges and help broaden student’s horizons.

The Aspen Institute is a global nonprofit organization committed to realizing a free, just and equitable society. Founded in 1949, the Institute drives change through dialogue, leadership and action to help solve the most important challenges facing the United States and the world. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., the Institute has a campus in Aspen, Colorado, and an international network of partners. For more information, visit www.aspeninstitute.org.


Published June 29, 2022