International Focus has great news to share with you! For the last several weeks, International Focus has been working with the International Affairs Council (IAC) of North Carolina to complete the transfer of all IAC international programming, including the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP), Open World Program, and Community Connections to International Focus.
Both the new programs and staff will serve to strengthen International Focus' role in the community and our ability to fulfill our mission. This enormous step forward will also ensure that International Focus can fulfill its vision of hosting not only our wonderful International Festival, but also year round programming throughout the Triangle area.
I am very pleased to welcome Leila Bekri, Director of International Visitor Leadership Programs, and Maria Adoskina, Director of Special Projects, to the International Focus family.
Born in New York, New York, and raised in Tunis, Tunisia, Leila Bekri is fluent in English, Arabic and French. Leila returned to the U.S. in 1998 armed with a law degree from Tunisia, but did not yet speak English. She very quickly taught herself! She is a graduate of Faculte des Sciences Juridiques, Politiques et Sociales de Tunis and holds a Master of International Relations Degree from North Carolina State University. During 2013, Leila directed 34 International Visitor Leadership Programs (IVLP) for over 241 international visitors.
Special Projects Director, Maria Adoskina, is a native of Moscow, Russia, and graduate of the prestigious Russian Academy of Sciences with a Ph.D. in philosophy and linguistics. Maria leads special projects, including Community Connections and the Open World Leadership Program.
The IVLP is a professional exchange program of the US Department of State designed to increase mutual understanding between Americans and people from other countries. Since its inception in 1940, nearly 200,000 foreign nationals have participated in the IVLP. U.S. embassies nominate participants based on their professional merit and leadership potential. More than 4,000 foreign visitors participate annually in IVLP projects of up to three weeks, including visits to Washington, D.C. and two or three other U.S. cities. They meet with their U.S. professional counterparts to gain an understanding of U.S. policies and practices and participate in cultural activities during their stay in the United States. Worldwide there are more than 53 program alumni who are current heads of government or chiefs of state.
The Open World Leadership Center administers the Open World program, one of the most effective U.S. exchange programs with post-Soviet countries. Begun as a pilot program in 1999 and established as a permanent entity in late 2000, the Center is the first and only international exchange agency in the U.S. Legislative Branch. Through Open World, nearly 18,000 current and future leaders from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Lithuania, Moldova, Russia, Ukraine, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan have meaningfully engaged and interacted with Members of Congress, Congressional staff, and thousands of other Americans, many the direct professional counterparts of these Eurasian leaders. Over 120 Open World participants visited North Carolina in 2013.
I am grateful to both the IAC and International Focus Boards of Directors, who ensured a smooth transition. I am also pleased that the International Focus Board of Directors and I have been entrusted to carry on IAC's legacy. It is, indeed, an honor.
Please join me in welcoming Leila and Maria and in celebrating the new opportunities that await International Focus in 2014!