Gordon State College Partners with IREX on Grant from the Stevens Initiative

Connecting Students in the US, Middle East and North Africa through Virtual Exchange

Gordon State College has been selected for the second time to participate in the Global Solutions Sustainability Challenge, a program supported by the Stevens Initiative, which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, administered by the Aspen Institute, and implemented by IREX.

During the spring and fall 2021, Gordon State College was paired with Nawroz University in Duhok in Kurdistan Region - Iraq joining a consortium of post-secondary education leaders and their 3,000 students. The students increased their career readiness skills through a business competition across the U.S., Jordan, and Iraq. Gordon State College is one of 71 academic institutions selected to participate in the Global Solutions Sustainability Challenge, a program supported by the Stevens Initiative, which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, administered by the Aspen Institute, and implemented by IREX.

“Our selection into the prestigious Global Sustainability Challenge has been an honor. Students were able to increase their global competency and sharpen their critical thinking skills while solving a challenging social problem,” said Dr. Christy Flatt, Associate Professor of Sociology and USG Goes Global Campus Representative. “Our students had to overcome the challenges inherent in crossing international boundaries, working with students across time zones and managing language and cultural differences. Watching students rise to the challenge has been a highlight of my twenty-year career in higher education.”

The Global Solutions Sustainability Challenge (GSSC) connects students from the United States, Jordan, and Iraq to virtually collaborate on a sustainable solution to a contemporary business or public challenge. Bi-national teams engage during a ten-week period creating a sustainable business solution to a challenge identified by an industry partner across numerous business and public sectors. Throughout the challenge, participants developed workforce skills, networked

with industry professionals, and participated in a virtual career fair. At the conclusion of the challenge, bi-national teams submitted a video pitch and business plan for their prototype during the Virtual Global Business Expo where the top three finalists were selected by an advisory committee comprised of industry professionals and educators. Gordon State College was recognized for Outstanding Cross-Cultural Collaboration.

“The Global Solutions Sustainability Challenge has created innovative ways for our future leaders to build career competencies in the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and space. Not only are students learning about various cultures but they are also solving real life problems through a design thinking model process within a team environment. Oral and written communication skills are also developed by the cohort through multiple technological platforms. Our students are agile and have removed barriers to learning through skillful collaboration and intentional peer-to-peer encouragement and mentoring,” said Dr. Tonya Moore, Director of Career Services and Co-Facilitator.

“This project has taught me about different cultures and how amazing it is to learn and engage with people from a different country. I have learned how to work in a collaborative setting, to face hard challenges and get through those challenges together as a team,” said Lacey Jones, Gordon Team Director. “Because of this experience, I had the opportunity to communicate and work with people from a different country while working on an important and impactful project.”

Over the course of four cohorts, the program has reached 3,000 college students in the US and university students in Jordan and Iraq. Participants will join the Stevens Initiative community of nearly 40,000 students in 15 Middle Eastern and North African countries and the Palestinian Territories, and in 44 U.S. states, Puerto Rico, and Washington, DC.

Created in 2015 by the Stevens family as a living legacy to Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, the Stevens Initiative is a public-private partnership that is building global competencies and 21st century skills for young people in the United States and the Middle East and North Africa. Through virtual exchange, the Initiative connects youth through technology to collaborate and learn together, giving them access to a substantive international exchange.

IREX is a global development and education nonprofit dedicated to building a more just, prosperous, and inclusive world. With an annual portfolio of $80 million and 400 staff worldwide, we work with partners in more than 100 countries in four areas essential to progress: cultivating leaders, empowering youth, strengthening institutions, and increasing access to quality education and information.

The Global Solutions Sustainability Challenge is funded by the Stevens Initiative, which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State with funding provided by the U.S. Government and is administered by the Aspen Institute. It is also supported by the Bezos Family Foundation and the governments of Morocco and the United Arab Emirates.