UNC-Chapel Hill Hosts Virtual International Visitor Leadership Program on Development and Partnership in Thailand
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill hosted its first virtual delegation from the U.S. Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) on Oct. 16, 2020, addressing the IVLP’s theme of “Sharing U.S. Best Practices in Development and Partnership in Thailand.”
The four Thai journalists participating in the program met with two faculty members from the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health with research experience in issues related to water management: Aaron Salzberg, director of the Water Institute and professor of environmental sciences and engineering, and Noah Kittner, assistant professor of environmental sciences and engineering.
Salzberg provided an overview of the research initiatives and goals of the Water Institute at UNC-Chapel Hill and described his experience in the U.S. government with strategy and foreign policy around water management. Kittner mentioned his significant research experience in Thailand, working in partnership with the government and universities on issues related to water management and energy needs.
Discussion focused on the benefits and environmental impacts associated with water management and renewable energy options being considered in Thailand to meet the country’s energy needs, including solar and hydroelectric energy. The group also explored ideas for possible collaboration between Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia in managing the Lower Mekong River basin, with Salzberg noting that Thailand is well-positioned to help facilitate regional cooperation. They also discussed the importance of sharing research and data among the Lower Mekong countries to better inform important policy decisions impacting the region. Thailand is a regional leader in developing innovations for renewable energy.
“For many years, Carolina has collaborated with the IVLP on producing essential programming that fosters mutual understanding and allows for the professional exchange of current and emerging leaders from around the world. I am grateful that the U.S. Department of State was able to pivot to continue the program virtually,” commented Barbara Stephenson, vice provost for global affairs and chief officer for UNC-Chapel Hill and former U.S. ambassador. “This is another important example of how international exchange is being reimagined while travel remains limited, providing us with even more opportunities for collaboration going forward.”
The U.S. Department of State operates IVLP as a professional exchange program that brings international professional and educational leaders to the U.S. for short visits, which they have done virtually since the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure safety. During their time with U.S. counterparts, IVLP participants interact with private and public sector organizations in their field of interest to form lasting connections. International Focus, a nonprofit organization in Raleigh, serves as a local organizer for U.S. government public diplomacy programs, including IVLP, connecting visitors with Triangle businesses, institutions, and people for exchange and dialogue.