June 24, 2016

SIU hosting student leaders from Central Asia

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- For the 18th time, Southern Illinois University Carbondale is hosting 20 of Central Asia’s most promising undergraduate students for a month of studying the nation’s political system and gaining a better understanding of Southern Illinois. 

Students from Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia are visiting as part of the U.S. Department of State’s “Study of the U.S. Institute for Student Leaders” (SUSI). The program seeks to promote a better understanding of the U.S. abroad and to help develop future world leaders. The focus is on local, state and federal public policy making. 

The students arrived on campus June 18 and will spend the next five weeks participating in a variety of classroom activities and lectures featuring university officials.  The students will also sit in on classes and gain insights from faculty in the political science, history, economics and philosophy departments, as well as the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, the SIU School of Law and Morris Library. 

The final five days of the students’ visit in the United States will be in Washington, D.C., where activities include a wide variety of cultural tours and attractions, and include meetings in the Old Executive Office Building, C-SPAN, a tour of the U.S. Capitol and White House, and a presentation by Tequia Hicks Delgado, White House Office of Legislative Affairs. The students return home July 23.

Media Advisory

Reporters, camera crews and photographers may cover some of the activities listed on the schedule during the students’ stay in Carbondale.  Students may also be available for interviews.  The program overview is available at institute.siu.edu. For more information, and to arrange interviews contact John L. Foster, program director at 618/319-0670 or jlfoster@siu.edu, or John S. Jackson, visiting professor at the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at 618/453-3106 or jsjacson@siu.edu. For more information on the SUSI program, contact ECA-Press@state.gov.

The SIU Carbondale program will cover a range of subjects necessary to understand the functioning of American government, politics and public policy making.  The American studies topics will include democracy, political culture, demographic diversity, elections, the creation of a civil society built on an extensive network of non-profit organizations, the U.S. Constitutional framework and the Rule of Law.

Students will tour Carbondale city government operations, participate in volunteer activities at the Carbondale Boys and Girls Club, the Senior Citizens Center, and two local environmental organizations, Green Earth and Keep Carbondale Beautiful. They will also attend a minor league baseball game, Sunset Concerts on the SIU campus, spend a weekend with families in the Chester area, and participate in the Kaskaskia Island Fourth of July celebration.  

The students will also take cultural trips to St. Louis, Chicago and Springfield and meet with policy makers on a variety of topics including public financing, governing in a large metropolis and the dynamics of messaging in a political campaign. 

The State Department sponsors the program.  The university has hosted institutes dating back to mid-1990s. The initiative began with hosting international faculty members, with the focus switching in 2003 to students. More than 350 students and faculty have participated in SIU’s program. 

John L. Foster, emeritus faculty in the Department of Political Science, is administrative director. John S. Jackson, a visiting professor with the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, is a co-director. 

Foster said the university’s programs “have been part of a large number of U.S. Department of State-sponsored exchange efforts, including the various Fulbright programs.” State Department exchange programs have more than 300,000 alumni, including 18 heads of state, 43 Nobel laureates and 78 Pulitzer Prize winners, Foster said. 

The programs “are intended to expand U.S. influence across the world through an increased understanding of values and culture using non-military resources -- often called ‘soft power,’” Foster said. 

Foster said one of his favorite memories from the institutes came in 2013 when a participant “most effectively summarized a great deal of academic and journalistic work on soft power” by noting that the “United States is everyone’s second country.”