The Role of International Education in Peacebuilding: A NAFSA and United States Institute for Peace (USIP) Panel Discussion

A Strategy on Study Abroad Can Boost Foreign Policy and Peace Building

More than 300,000 American students study abroad each year, and in 2015, nearly 1 million international students were enrolled at U.S. universities. These flows of students are a resource for America’s diplomacy and its efforts to build peace abroad. Still, diplomats and scholars on the issue say the United States should do much more to promote international education and more effectively integrate it into broader foreign policy. On November 14, scholars and diplomats will examine how the role of international education is changing and steps that can be recommended to the next U.S. administration.

In 2005, a congressional commission on study abroad underscored America’s need for citizens with international educational experience to provide the skills for future U.S. security and global leadership. The commission’s report proposed a goal of 1 million Americans studying abroad by 2017. The numbers of such students remain perhaps a third of that level.

“Is there any sense of a national strategy that recognizes the role of international education and integrates it into broader policy in a long-term, strategic manner?” asks Richard LeBaron, a former U.S. ambassador who has studied educational policy. “More than 15 years after the Clinton administration and the U.S. Senate called for a coordinated international education policy…we still don’t have a proactive international student recruitment strategy” or a major federal effort to build global learning, according to Jill Welch, NAFSA deputy executive director of public policy.

LeBaron and Welch will join other experts at the November 14 forum, cosponsored by USIP and NAFSA. Panelists will examine how core competencies of international education, including cultural awareness, effective communications, and problem solving—align with diplomatic tools and civil society efforts to manage and resolve conflicts, and address the causes of violent extremism.

Keynote Address

Ambassador LeBaron is a career diplomat with more than 30 years experience and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, where he focuses on the Gulf region. His most recent overseas posting was as deputy chief of mission at the U.S. embassy in London from August 2007 to August 2010. Previous to his assignment to London, Ambassador LeBaron served as the U.S. ambassador to Kuwait (2004 to 2007). From September 2001 to July 2004, he served as deputy chief of mission at the Embassy of the United States in Tel Aviv, Israel. Ambassador LeBaron was minister-counselor for political and economic affairs at the Embassy of the United States in Cairo, Egypt, from 1998 to 2001. While posted in Washington from 1991 to 1998, he served as director for Near East and South Asian affairs at the National Security Council, director of the Peace Process and Regional Affairs Office in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs at the Department of State, and public affairs adviser for the Near Eastern Bureau. From 1991 to 1993, Ambassador LeBaron was political officer in the State Department's Office of European Community Affairs. Ambassador LeBaron's earlier overseas diplomatic postings include Lisbon (1989-1991), Tunis (1986-1989), New Delhi (1982-1984), and Managua (1980-1982).




Welcome remarks by USIP: The Importance of Diplomacy in Preventing Conflict and Building Peace

Ambassador William Taylor, Executive Vice President, United States Institute of Peace; former United States Ambassador to Ukraine

Introductory remarks by NAFSA

Jill Welch, Deputy Executive Director, Public Policy, NAFSA: Association of International Educators

International Education and National Strategy: Are We There Yet?

Ambassador Richard LeBaron (retired), Nonresident Senior Fellow, Atlantic Council

International Education as Tool of Diplomacy

Waidehi Gokhale, Chief Executive Officer, Soliya

Diplomatic Engagement with Nonviolent Activists and Movements

Maria J. Stephan, PhD, Senior Policy Fellow, United States Institute of Peace; Nonresident Senior Fellow, Atlantic Council

Civility as Key Component of Diplomacy

Daniel L. Buccino, MA, MSW, Director, Johns Hopkins Civility Initiative; Assistant Professor, Deptartment of Psychiatry, Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center

Moderated Discussion

Jill Welch, NAFSA


Jeffrey Helsing, PhD, Associate Vice President, Academy for International Conflict Management and Peacebuilding, United States Institute of Peace


Daniel Buccino
Daniel Buccino, L.C.S.W.-C., B.C.D. is the director of the Johns Hopkins Civility Initiative and the Clinical Director of the Mood Disorders Clinic at the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in Baltimore, Maryland. Buccino is an assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and clinical associate professor at the Smith College School for Social Work and the University of Maryland School of Social Work. Buccino has published and presented widely on issues of effective and ethical psychotherapy, and civility and healthcare.

Waidehi Gokhale
Waidehi Gokhale is the chief executive officer of Soliya, an international not-for-profit organization delivering innovative virtual exchange programming globally. She has 18 years of professional experience in the fields of psychology, international education, and development. Prior to joining Soliya in 2008, Gokhale worked as an international project manager at War Child Canada with a globally diverse portfolio of programming. Before that, she worked as a counselor on staff in high schools in the United States and as a language teacher in Singapore. Gokhale was born in India and grew up in Hong Kong. She holds a BA in literature and philosophy from the University of York in the United Kingdom; an MA in counseling psychology from Boston College; and an MA in law and diplomacy from the Fletcher School at Tufts University, with a concentration in conflict transformation and international organizations. Having lived, studied and worked globally. Gokhale believes strongly in the transformative power of meaningful cross-cultural experiences for young people.

Jeffrey Helsing
Jeffrey Helsing, PhD, oversees the content of USIP’s education and training programs, as well as curriculum development in the United States and in conflict zones abroad. Helsing has close to two decades of conflict resolution training globally, particularly in the Middle East.For more than eight years, Helsing worked with groups in Israel and the Palestinian Authority training educators, nongovernmental organization workers, university students, and young leaders in developing conflict resolution, nonviolence, human rights, and communication and facilitation skills. He has 20 years of experience as an educator, including teaching at the American University in Cairo, George Washington University, Swarthmore College, and the University of Pennsylvania. Helsing has taught a broad range of international relations subjects, including conflict resolution, human rights, comparative foreign policies, American foreign policy, and international relations theory.

Maria Stephan
Maria J. Stephan, PhD, is a senior policy fellow at USIP and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, where she focuses on the dynamics of civil resistance and their relevance for violent conflict prevention and democratic development. Previously, Stephan was lead foreign affairs officer in the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations. Earlier, she was detailed to the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, to focus on subnational governance and civil-military planning. Prior to government service, Stephan directed policy and research at the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict. She was an adjunct professor at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and American University’s School of International Service. Stephan is also the coauthor of the award winning book,Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict (Columbia University Press, 2011).

William B. Taylor
William B. Taylor is the executive vice president at USIP. Earlier, he was the special coordinator for Middle East Transitions in the U.S. State Department. He oversaw assistance and support to Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, and Syria. He served as the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine from 2006 to 2009. He also served as the U.S. government's representative to the Mideast Quartet, which facilitated the Israeli disengagement from Gaza and parts of the West Bank. He served in Baghdad as the first director of the Iraq Reconstruction Management Office, and in Kabul as coordinator of international and U.S. assistance to Afghanistan. Ambassador Taylor was also coordinator of U.S. assistance to the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. He earlier served on the staff of U.S. Senator Bill Bradley.

Jill Welch
Jill Welch is NAFSA's deputy executive director for public policy. She has been engaged in working with Congress and the Executive Branch on international education issues for more than a decade, and she leads a team of talented staff in promoting international education as central to constructive U.S. global engagement and to peace, security, and well-being in the United States and the world. In serving as a strong advocate for public policies that create a better world through international education, Welch and her team work to raise awareness of the significant contributions international students and scholars make in the United States, address the need for greater global competency on the part of U.S. graduates, and promote freedom of academic travel, among other objectives. Welch first came to NAFSA in 1998, having held previous positions with U.S. Senator Sam Nunn and the Institute of International Education. She holds an executive leadership MPA from American University and a BA in political science and French from Berry College.