MISSOULA – Montana professionals recently welcomed 10 economic empowerment leaders from Southeast Asia participating in the U.S. Department of State’s Professional Fellows Program. The program brings emerging leaders from around the world to the U.S. for intensive fellowships designed to broaden their professional expertise.
The program was arranged by the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Center at the University of Montana, which will host Fellows from Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam in Montana through Nov. 3. They are being hosted throughout Montana, including Helena, Missoula, Polson, Ronan and Whitefish.
The program supports international cooperation and builds networks of people and organizations working on critical issues worldwide. Participants learn one another’s social, economic, political and cultural structures; share their professional interests; and create long-lasting partnerships.
The Fellows support the internationalization of their U.S. host organizations, as well as their host communities. In January, the Montana Fellows will travel to Southeast Asia to reinforce new partnerships and opportunities.
Montana organizations hosting Southeast Asian participants this fall include business, government and nongovernmental organizations. Area partners include the Montana Community Development Corporation, the Mission Mountain Food Enterprise Center and the Jefferson Local Development Corporation. The Fellows arrived in Montana on Oct. 4.
Amita Patel Greer, director of business advising at Montana Community Development Corp. in Missoula, currently hosts Ty Ratana, a project director from a grassroots NGO that provides microloans to poor provinces in northeast Cambodia.
“Our business model of how we alleviate poverty and build entrepreneurship is something that many Southeast Asian economic development organizations would be interested in,” Greer said. “We appreciate the opportunity to share knowledge and experiences of fostering entrepreneurship in a big and rural area, such as that in Cambodia.”
“The Mansfield Center has been honored to host a range of State Department programs that support the people of Montana as they compete in the global arena,” said Deena Mansour, associate director of the Mansfield Center. “In 2013, our programs have supported not only Montana professionals, but also students K-12 as well as university-level. Our mission is to expand global partnerships in the areas that Montanans care about, such as economic development. The relationships established during the program reap tangible benefits for communities throughout Montana.”
The Mansfield Center is one of 16 U.S.-based organizations chosen this year to host foreign professionals from more than 40 countries and territories worldwide. The program culminates in a three-day Professional Fellows Congress, which will be held Nov. 6-8 in Washington, D.C. During the event, participants will gather to design real-world solutions and projects they can implement in their home communities and institutions.
The Mansfield Center promotes better understanding of U.S. relations with Asia and ethics in public affairs in the spirit of former U.S. Sen. Mike Mansfield and his wife, Maureen. The center houses programs that focus on the people and cultures of modern Asia and ethics in public affairs – the core interests and hallmarks of Sen. Mansfield’s career.
The Economic Empowerment Program continues in 2014, when 28 new Southeast Asian Fellows arrive in Montana. The Mansfield Center is seeking interested fellowship hosts and organizations to become part of the program. For more information visit http://www.exchanges.state.gov/non-us/program/professional-fellows-economic-empowerment-program and http://umt.edu/mansfield/EconomicEmpowermentProject/.