Invitation to the White House
By: Laura Rose, Chief Executive Officer
It’s not often I receive an invitation to the White House. In fact, I had never received one until this month when Robin Lerner, Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Private Sector of the Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs invited me to attend a summit last week by senior officials on Study Abroad and Global Citizenship.
The focus of the summit was the Obama Administration’s goal to dramatically increase the number of Americans studying abroad during this decade. Enormous inroads are being made and Greenheart is doing its part having increased our number of outbound participants by 28% in 2014 and with a tremendous amount of digital communication being sent on the experiences of our study abroad participants. Many of the people I met last Tuesday were familiar with Greenheart and complimentary of our work, acknowledging how important the private sector is to achieving the administration’s goals, which include Obama’s 100,000 strong initiative for China and the Americas.
Here are some of the high points of a fascinating half day session with some of President Obama’s most trusted advisors:
According to Evan Ryan, Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs, study abroad is a strategic imperative for the United States…Over 50% of students who enter university in the U.S. expect and hope to study abroad but only 10% do so…Only 300,000 students or 1.5% of 20 million students in the U.S. study abroad. 100,000 American students studied abroad in 1999. Today 300,000 do, though at the present growth rate that number is not expected to double until 2046. The administration – and Greenheart – finds this pace unacceptable.
Together at Greenheart, we are progressively more successful in facilitating an ever-increasing number of Americans to study, work or volunteer abroad. We accomplish this by stimulating further interest in cultural exchange through the opportunities we provide to host international students in Americans’ homes and workplaces, and through the wonderfully diverse selection of opportunities offered by Greenheart Travel.
Jonathan Greenblat, Special Assistant to the President and Director of Social Innovation at the White House, emphasized that by hiring people who have studied abroad we promote and fulfill the goals of government global citizenship.
Regarding China, Penny Pritzker highlighted that with the recent change in China visa policy (visas to U.S. valid for up to ten years), the U.S. expects 7.3 million Chinese visitors in 2015, contributing billions of dollars to our economy. Penny also pointed out that travel and tourism is the United States’ largest export to China.
The following is a partial list of the panelists and presenters, many of whom I was able to meet:
- Benjamen Rhodes, Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor
- Penny Pritzker, Secretary of Commerce
- Dennis McDonough, White House Chief of Staff
- Tina Tchen Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff to the First Lady, White House
- Jonathan Greenblatt, Special Assistant to the President and Director of Social Innovation at the White House
- Evan Ryan, Assistant Secretary of State for ECA, DoS
- Paula Froelich, Editor in Chief, Yahoo Travel
- Samantha Brown, Travel Channel Television Host
Hats off to all of you who are connected to Greenheart for the work you are doing and the positive impact you make in the world. Together 2015 will be an even more shining example of the tremendous headway we are making in fulfilling our own and President Obama’s goals!
When we study together and we learn together, we work together and we prosper together.”
~Barack Obama May 2013
You can also watch the full video of the presentation on the White House’s webpage.