The Foreign Service Journal, January-February 2019

56 JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2019 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL FEATURE Exchange programs are a two-way street when it comes to commerce and industry. BY MAR I E ROYCE Marie Royce was sworn in as assistant secretary of State for educational and cultural affairs in March 2018, following unanimous Senate con- firmation. She is a businesswoman and former professor. E conomic diplomacy works because of people. And the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs is in the people business. We are making the connections that are helping solve the business problems of today and tomorrow, both abroad and in the United States. Take, for example, Ange Noelle Muco of Burundi and American Erica Hall, chief impact officer of the Akola Project, an international fashion design company with a flagship store in Dallas, Texas. On a recent State Department exchange for female entrepreneurs, the two women shared the story of how they connected their two supply chains at a critical time, benefiting both of their businesses. Ange and her fellow EXCHANGE PROGRAMS PAY OFF FOR AMERICANS international businesswomen were in Dallas on an International Visitor Leadership Program, “Alumni as Economic Multipliers.” All of the participants had previously been on an exchange and were returning to the United States to make new connections. They met with U.S. companies in Dallas and several other U.S. cities, sharing best practices with American colleagues. “I think we can be really self-focused if we don’t expose our- selves to things that are different, and ideas that are different, and people that are different,” says American Stephanie Giddens of Vickery Trading, which hires refugee women to assist with mak- ing their clothing line. “Until you get to know people, until they become your friends, and you do business with them, that makes all the difference in the world,” says American Valerie Freeman, CEO of the Imprimus Group, also of Dallas. Both Stephanie and Valerie took time from their schedules to meet with the interna- tional women. Ange and the women in her group join thousands of State Department exchange participants who return home with new ideas after meeting with Americans across our great country. However, there is another story that is less often told—but as important—regarding how exchange programs also help Ameri-