Named for U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, the Stevens Initiative is an international effort to build global competence and career readiness for young people in the United States and the Middle East and North Africa while growing and enhancing the field of virtual exchange: online, international, and collaborative learning.

Conceived and developed in close partnership with Ambassador Stevens’ family, the Stevens Initiative was inspired by the meaningful international exchange experiences that Ambassador Stevens had as a young man, which helped to shape his career. Ambassador Stevens was known for his goodwill toward others. Always gracious, fascinated by other cultures, and constantly asking questions, he engaged in open and respectful dialogue with everyone he met. His appreciation for the differences that make people unique was fueled by his early experiences abroad. Stevens studied as a high school student in Spain, a college student in Italy, and a Peace Corps volunteer and teacher in Morocco.

The Stevens Initiative builds on the pioneering work of the virtual exchange community. Recognizing the potential for significant impact that this work promises, and capitalizing on advances in technology, the aim is to make similar life-changing, cross-cultural experiences available to many young people in sustained and meaningful ways.

Such in-person exchange experiences are highly valuable in today’s inter-connected world, yet less than one percent of young people have the opportunity to study abroad.

Moreover, young people are struggling to find their place in changing societies and often lack the skills they need to thrive in a rapidly changing 21st century economy. More and more jobs require language skills, collaboration with people from diverse backgrounds, and familiarity with global issues. These skills are critical to understanding the impact of global trends and events on our lives and our societies.

Through programs such as the M2GATE program, implemented by the William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan, the Aspen Institute Stevens Initiative addresses these challenges by giving young people the knowledge, skills, and experiences they need to prosper in an interconnected world.

Please see here for more information on the origin of the Aspen Institute Stevens Initiative.



The Stevens Initiative is an international effort to build global competence and career readiness skills for young people in the United States, the Middle East and North Africa; it is funded by several public and private donors including the U.S. Department of State and the Bezos Family Foundation.

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