The J. Christopher Stevens Global Ambassadors Project is an innovative series of virtual exchanges, providing an opportunity for UC Berkeley students to interact with a diverse group of peers at institutions in the Middle East and North Africa. Funded by the Stevens Initiative—a multilateral public-private partnership housed at the Aspen Institute and sponsored by the U.S. Department of State—the project strives to encourage cross-cultural understanding, giving students a chance to learn in a diverse and engaging environment while equipping them with the tools they need to communicate and cooperate with confidence in the twenty first century. Since it began in 2016, it has provided more than 200 UC Berkeley students opportunities to engage with nearly 230 students across the Middle East and North Africa.
For video narratives from participants in our exchanges, click here.
In the Fall of 2017, this project-based virtual exchange course, conducted in cooperation with leading social enterprises in the Middle East and North Africa, offered students the opportunity to learn about social entrepreneurship while participating in a meaningful cross-cultural exchange. Looking at issues of sustainability, community engagement, gender, social impact, and the Arab Spring, the course was included an interdisciplinary project in which UC Berkeley students teamed up with socially-engaged entrepreneurs from the region to help create innovative solutions with immediate real-world applications.
In the Fall of 2016, we launched the University of California’s first virtual exchange course. Conducted in tandem with Al Akhawayn University in Morocco, this class offers students the opportunity to explore questions of gender in Islam alongside students in Morocco. Learning alongside each other and listening to a range of perspectives, students from different backgrounds have the unique opportunity to make cross-cultural connections while learning about a topic of great importance: the factors informing gender identities in the Muslim world, and the role and legal status of women in Muslim societies as well as in the U.S.
In the Spring of 2017, CMES launched a project-based virtual exchange course on the public health implications of conflict and forced migration. Developed in conjunction with the UC Berkeley Center for Global Public Health, the course focused on recent conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa (the Iraq War, the Syrian refugee crisis, etc.). UC Berkeley students teamed up with students directly affected by these conflicts and work together to develop innovative solutions to pressing public health issues.
Every semester, UC Berkeley students studying Arabic and Kurdish are matched with English-language learners at institutions in the Middle East and North Africa for a virtual language exchange. Students meet one-on-one weekly for one hour to practice their spoken language skills. UC Berkeley students have the opportunity to practice colloquial Arabic, while students from institutions in the Middle East and North Africa have the opportunity to practice their spoken English with a native speaker.