By Janet Norton, International Visitor Programs Manager, Iowa International Center

February 2016 – The Iowa International Center is one of 92 organizations nationally that welcome emerging global leaders as part of the IVLP (International Visitor Leadership Program). Last year, we were honored to be able to show 165 professionals representing more than 79 countries all that Iowa had to offer, through programs hosted via our Sehgal Foundation International Visitors Center here in Des Moines.

National Conference Collage Feb 2016As part of the GlobalTies U.S. network of community organizations designated to host IVLP participants, we stay connected with one another during the GlobalTies U.S. National Meeting in Washington, D.C. This year’s conference felt just like home – as it took place in the middle of a huge snowstorm, even by Midwestern standards.

This year’s conference theme was “#IAmDiplomacy” – an idea that resonates throughout our network of organizations, staff members and volunteers – and that also speaks directly to how each of us, as individuals, can play an important role in shaping not only the success of U.S. Foreign Policy efforts on a person-to-person basis, but the mindsets and perceptions of thousands of international visitors who interact with Americans as part of the IVLP every year.

As International Visitor Programs Manager, I proudly represented the Iowa International Center among program agency partners, program officers, global diplomats, as well as my peers from around the nation. Our conversations ranged from best practices in welcoming international visitors to Iowa to learn about topics where people know we excel – including agribusiness and biotechnology – as well as areas of expertise that the world might not know we can provide – including refugee and LGBT rights and renewable energy.

I also had the privilege of meeting with Iowa’s  Rep. David Young and staff from all of our other Members of Congress to share the exciting work we’ve been doing to bring international visitors to meet with their local professional peers in Iowa, and how they get to know more about Iowa through having dinner in the homes of our wonderful volunteers.

We were also proud that Hannah Grafelman (pictured with me upper left), Iowa International Center intern, was selected to join me in D.C. as part of a special Emerging Leaders program, where she met interns from similar organizations and got a glimpse into potential global engagement and career opportunities for the future.

Each day, I have the unique opportunity to welcome visiting leaders from around the world, as well interact with many outstanding professional volunteers and home hospitality hosts that help us bring that concept of global citizenship to life. In all these interactions, I carry that responsibility and awareness that #IAmDiplomacy with me – and I’m thankful they do, too.

To volunteer to help welcome the world to Iowa as an IVLP volunteer, please email me at jnorton@iowainternationalcenter.org.

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