As you may know the J-1 Camp Counselor category is in the midst of category review in advance of regulatory changes. Principals from the US Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs Private Sector Exchanges held a four-hour meeting with camp counselor sponsors on October 20th in Washington DC. It was a veritable “who’s who” of sponsors and bureau officials. Some highlights:
- Sponsors met in advance of the meetings during the course of the Annual Meeting of the Alliance for International Exchange.
- The new Deputy Assistant Secretary (DAS), Keri Lowry, addressed the group. She has an awesome background in public service, most notably the Peace Corps.
- Keri stressed Partnering Principles including equity and respect, transparency and trust, mutual benefit and sustainability.
- The category review is halfway complete. Conventional forecasts are that new regulations will be in place by the 2018 program season.
- Policy Analyst Jennifer Nupp outlined observations from monitoring visits to camps. They ranged from the positive to the negative and everything in between.
- The definition of “category review” is very much an academic exercise and a research project on every available facet of the program and its constituencies.
- We reviewed data from our collective thoughts on program strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and challenges (SWOC).
- Breakout groups discussed the various implications of the SWOC analysis and we reported our findings.
- We agreed that regulatory changes present as many if not more opportunities as challenges.
- The strengths of the program in meeting public diplomacy goals appeared irrefutable.
After the meeting many of us met for drinks and social discussion at a nearby establishment with our colleagues at State. The tone was one of upbeat cooperation, opportunity, healthy dialogue and professional bonding. The new DAS is a breath of fresh air on many levels. There is definitely a bright future for our very unique and special form of cultural exchange!