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Civic Initiative: The wrap-up for Summer 2023

For the Civic Initiative - our international exchange program - the last several years for our international exchange program, , have been anything but normal due to the delays and cancellations of programs brought on by the pandemic. Yet, to be clear, “normal” for the Civic Initiative is a circus-like atmosphere of logistics, cultural events, and first-time experiences for just about everyone. That was the summer of 2023, in short, and now that our summer of 57 participants from 22 countries are back home, it’s time to re-cap!

We were ecstatic to once again run the American Political Development (APD) program of political science scholars from around the world. Seventeen scholars from as many countries were our first to land in the U.S. and call Amherst their temporary home. They came from Argentina, Bangladesh, Chile, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Israel, Kenya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Romania, Russia, South Africa, Turkey and Ukraine. The APD group is unique not only due its multicultural makeup but also because of the spread of the ages of the participants. Their wealth of lived experiences made discussions both in and out of class deep, serious and entertaining. Academic session topics ranged from the foundation of American democracy, money's influence on politics, voting rights, the modern U.S. presidency, partisanship, reproductive rights, the Supreme Court, immigration, media policy, and more. The capstone in Amherst was their presidential campaign simulations. They ended their U.S. experience with a study tour down the east coast to New York City, Charlottesville, VA and Washington, DC. 

The Study of the U.S. Institute's on Comparative Public Policy for Pakistan has been run nearly continuously by Civic Initiative for the last 15 years. Twenty undergraduate scholars from across Pakistan represented multiple areas of study, including medicine, engineering, literature, law, accounting, business, mathematics and more. The group’s academic sessions covered public policy issues including LGBTQ rights, leadership, artificial intelligence, mass incarceration, elections, the media landscape, race and bias, the environment, alternative policing and many more topics. The theme of food insecurity connected several of their activities, including a presentation by the executive director of the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, Andrew Morehouse; volunteering at the food bank’s farm in Hadley, MA; learning about the Amherst Survival Center’s services for the local families and individuals in need; and serving food to clients at the Not Bread Alone soup kitchen. They also participated in a campaign simulation competition. Each week in Amherst was capped with a blogging session to reflect on their experiences. The program capped off with a study tour of Boston, New York City, Gettysburg, PA and Washington, DC. The New York City experience included a tour of the United Nations by the Pakistani Mission to the UN as well as a formal function at the Consulate General of New York. The group also met Ambassador Masood Khan at the Pakistan Embassy in Washington DC.

Finally, we had our fourth Economic Empowerment program cohort from Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia. The participants also came from a variety of academic backgrounds including computer science, business, pharmacy, interior design and artificial intelligence. With that multitude of interests, they came together to learn the concepts, practices and realities of entrepreneurship. Arguably the busiest of our three groups, they combined academic sessions, networking functions with local entrepreneurs, a business competition complete with selling at a local market and a capstone week in the Detroit area to meet Arab-American entrepreneurs. The group had weekly community service projects during which they donated their time and muscle to the farm at the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, The Connecticut River Conservancy, The Kestrel Land Trust and Not Bread Alone. The group took some time each week to reflect on all this activity by contributing to a group blog.

All of our summer programs were funded by the U.S. Department of State. To learn more about the department's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, visit

To see lots of pictures from the summer, visit our Instagram account:

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