|U.S. Embassy and Alumni Join Forces to Amplify Outreach on Education
In March and April 2011, the Public Affairs‟ Section of the U.S. Embassy undertook two separate outreach trips to 7 central and eastern provinces of Mongolia covering in total over 2500 kilometers, meeting over 750 students and faculty, and visiting over 12 local orphanage and disability centers.
The main purpose of the two trips was to reach out to students, universities and the general public of provinces outside of the capital city and encourage more participation of local people and students in U.S. government scholarship and exchanges programs. The outreach groups provided information on U.S. government-funded scholarships and programs and explained about the general requirements and procedures for pursuing studies in the U.S. U.S.G. program alumni joined the Embassy staff on each trip to share their experience with the students and the faculty of those rural provinces. Five Fulbright English Teaching Assistants (ETAs) to Mongolia also joined the trips and together with the alumni conducted outreach visits to local orphanages and disability centers.
The assistance and involvement of our alumni living in each of the local areas was crucial to the success of the trip. In Darkhan city, alumni of IVLP and SUSI programs helped arrange the visits and meetings, and attended and shared information at the public and university meetings.
Each of our trips consisted of three main components: outreach to the local universities and the students, outreach to the socially disadvantaged groups, especially children, and the outreach to the local media. During the two trips, U.S. Embassy staff visited 9 local universities and vocational training centers and held meetings with the heads of the local education departments. At these meetings, the Embassy staff discussed possible ways of collaboration such as extending the Fulbright ETA program and increasing the promotion of the U.S. Government scholarship and exchanges programs among their faculty and students.
The local universities highly appreciated the opportunity to learn about the exchanges and educational programs from the Embassy and expressed their interest in collaborating with the Embassy in the future. Alumni and ETAs visited 12 orphanage and disability centers in these 7 aimags and conducted outreach programs. The centers they visited ranged from a vocational circus training center for street children to a shelter for girls who were victims of domestic violence.
During their visits, the ETAs and the alumna enjoyed music performances by the children and taught the younger kids English songs, the alphabet, and played fun games with the kids. They also gave the kids English story and coloring books and other supplies, and presented at each center some donations of clothes and toys collected from Embassy staff. In each aimag, the Embassy staff organized a public lecture on scholarships and visas free of charge for the local public and in total over 700 people attended. There was television and press coverage of events throughout the trips. The Embassy staff also visited Erdenet Mining Corporation, the largest employer in Erdenet, and one of the largest in all Mongolia, and made a presentation on study and business travel opportunities in the U.S. for managers and engineers of the company. As mining and engineering are becoming the priority sectors for the country‟s economy and development, this meeting was very important and the audience asked numerous questions.
There were many positive outcomes of this outreach trip. The presence of the alumni and the Fulbright participants allowed more face-time at the children‟s centers and was a great example of the American spirit of volunteerism. Utilizing the complementary expertise of both Public Affairs and Consular staff as well as the alumni, the embassy staff were able to give comprehensive presentations about educational opportunities in the U.S. to the local high school and university students, teachers, administrators, businesses and the general public.
With so much of the political, economic, and people power of the country concentrated in Ulaanbaatar, the impact of outreach efforts outside of the capital is great and highly appreciated. The presence of U.S. Embassy staff in regional centers goes a long way to building positive public perception of the U.S. and encourages more diversity in the U.S. government scholarship applicant pool.