Virtual exchange: ASU and Palestinian university advance design project through the Stevens Initiative

  ASU and An-Najah National University studentsThe Design School and the School of Sustainability at Arizona State University, in partnership with An-Najah National University, recently received a grant from the Stevens Initiative to use online, collaborative learning to increase cross-cultural understanding and equip young people with the skills needed to thrive in a 21st century economy.  ASU and An-Najah National University students exchange unique perspectives and share a common goal -- to design a sustainable community center for a refugee camp in Palestine. ASU and An-Najah National University students The Stevens Initiative is an international effort to build career and global competence skills for young people in the United States and the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) by growing and enhancing the field of virtual exchange: online, international, and collaborative learning. The Initiative honors the legacy of Ambassador Chris Stevens, who devoted his life to building bridges between people from different cultures.  Arizona State University and An-Najah National University received one of 13 new grants funded through this international competition, expanding the Initiative’s reach to approximately 30,000 students in 18 MENA countries and 31 American states. An-Najah National University will connect over 150 university students and at least 50 high school students in Tempe, Arizona, the Palestinian Territories’ city of Nablus, and the surrounding refugee camps, providing them with a deeper understanding of environmental sustainability concepts, green buildings, and public policy through team-based projects. The goal of the program is to spread awareness of green and sustainable behavior, expanding the capacity of youth to develop sustainable building practices and create cross-cultural relationships. Chris Boone, Dean of the School of Sustainability at ASU said, “it is my intention to expand the worldview of students and provide opportunities to collaborate on projects like the US-Palestine Green Futures exchange to solve the most pressing sustainability challenges of our time.” “With the support of the Stevens Initiative, young people from the United States, the Middle East, and North Africa are connecting and learning together – gaining important skills while learning about global cultures,” said Elliot Gerson, Executive Vice President of Policy and Public Programs of the Aspen Institute. “We look forward to working with An-Najah National University and Arizona State University to expand the Initiative’s reach to the West Bank in the Palestinian Territories and Arizona.” The Initiative’s second grant competition was open to US and MENA educational institutions and non-profit organizations. It prioritized virtual exchange projects that focused on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM); projects that are rooted in project-based learning; projects that support the education of refugees across the MENA region; and projects that propose in-person exchange to complement the virtual learning experience. Arizona State University is a public research university on five campuses across the Phoenix metropolitan area, and four regional learning centers throughout Arizona. The 2018 university ratings by U.S. News & World Report rank ASU No. 1 among the Most Innovative Schools in America for the third year in a row. ASU is one of the largest public universities by enrollment in the U.S.  ASU's charter, approved by the board of regents in 2014, is based on the "New American University" model created by ASU President Crow. It defines ASU as "a comprehensive public research university, measured not by whom it excludes, but rather by whom it includes and how they succeed; advancing research and discovery of public value; and assuming fundamental responsibility for the economic, social, cultural and overall health of the communities it serves." The Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability is the hub of ASU’s sustainability initiatives. The ASU Wrigley Institute advances sustainability-related research, education and business practices for an urbanizing world. Its School of Sustainability, the first of its kind in the U.S., offers transdisciplinary degree programs to create practical solutions for social, economic and environmental challenges. The Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts positions designers, artists, scholars and educators at the center of public life and prepares them to use their creative capacities to advance culture, build community and imaginatively address today’s most pressing challenges. The Design School is one of the most comprehensive design schools in the nation. More Information: Housed at the Aspen Institute, the Stevens Initiative is a collaboration between the family of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, the U.S. Department of State, the Bezos Family Foundation, the governments of the United Arab Emirates and Morocco, and Microsoft, Twitter, Vidyo, and LRNG.  Visit us at The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) builds relations between the people of the United States and the people of other countries through academic, cultural, sports, professional and private exchanges, as well as public-private partnerships and mentoring programs. These exchange programs improve foreign relations and strengthen the national security of the United States, support U.S. international leadership, and provide a broad range of domestic benefits by helping break down barriers that often divide us. Visit The Bezos Family Foundation supports rigorous, inspired learning environments for young people, from birth through high school, to put their education into action. Through investments in research, public awareness, systems building and programs, the foundation works to elevate the field of education and improve life outcomes for all children. The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, DC. Its mission is to foster leadership based on enduring values and to provide a nonpartisan venue for dealing with critical issues. The Institute is based in Washington, DC; Aspen, CO; and on the Wye River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. It also has offices in New York City and an international network of partners. For more information, visit