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Jerusalem, November 6, 2017  — The Stevens Initiative today announced the award of a 1.5-year grant to Al-Quds University, one of thirteen new grants funded through an international competition 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.

Al-Quds University is among the second cohort of virtual exchange programs to be funded by the Stevens Initiative, 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.

The new programs will expand the Initiative’s reach to 30,000 students in 18countries in the Middle East and North Africa and 31 American states.

Under the Stevens Initiative, Al-Quds University will serve as the hub for a program called Palestinian American Youth Civic Engagement (PAYCE).  The program will connect students from two Palestinian universities – Al-Quds University and An-Najah University – with students from four American institutions – the University of Hartford, the University of New Hampshire, Drake University, and Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University.  

The faculty leaders of PAYCE will create a module on civic and political engagement for university courses with an emphasis on teamwork to produce multimedia stories and podcasts. The goal of the program is to increase knowledge of government and civic engagement across borders, comprehension and reflection of the human experience within a political and social system, and analysis and comparison of various circumstances through cross-cultural communication.  

Other examples of the work to be undertaken by the second cohort include:  

  • A program that uses virtual exchange to improve global citizenship and problem-solving skills among hospitality students in the United States and Jordan;
  • An entrepreneurship program for students in Michigan, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, and Tunisia to develop an idea and enhance their pitches;

“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 Al-Quds University to scale the Initiative to Iowa, New Hampshire, Florida, and Connecticut.”

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.

“We are very pleased to receive support from the Stevens Initiative to support innovation in cross-cultural exchange” said Dr. Imad Abu Kishek, president of Al-Quds University.  “We are proud to honor the legacy of a distinguished U.S. diplomat.”

The other Stevens Initiative grantees announced today are:

  • An-Najah National University
  • Arab Academy for Science, Technology and Maritime Transport
  • Arizona State University
  • Ball State University
  • Institute of International Education
  • IREX
  • Johns Hopkins University
  • Karam Foundation
  • Sister Cities International
  • University of Nebraska – Lincoln
  • WGBH Educational Foundation
  • William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan

Al-Quds University, founded in 1984, is a Palestinian university located in Abu Dis with four further campuses in Jerusalem, Sheikh Jarrah, Beit Hanina and Rammalh (al-Bireh). AQU provides higher education and community services within the Jerusalem area as well as the neighboring towns, villages and refugee camps in the West Bank. With over 13,000 students, and fifteen academic faculties including Arts, Medicine, Dentistry, Law, Qur'an and Islamic Studies and Engineering, AQU is a hub of creativity and offers a vibrant learning environment. AQU has international partnerships with American and European universities. It is also affiliated with over 30 institutes and engaged in innovative research around the world.  Visit the University’s web site at  

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

More Information

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

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