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 examined how the role of international education is changing, and steps that can be recommended to the next U.S. administration.

Artwork on the walls of the Max Rayne Hand in Hand Bilingual School in Jersualem.

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 studies 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, a policy advocate with NAFSA, the Association of International Educators.

LeBaron and Welch joined other experts at the November 14 forum, co-sponsored by the United States Institute of Peace and NAFSA, which has worked since 1948 to advance international education and exchanges. Panelists examined 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.


William B. Taylor
Executive Vice President, U.S. Institute of Peace

Jill Welch
Deputy Executive Director, Public Policy, NAFSA

Ambassador Richard LeBaron
Nonresident Senior Fellow, Atlantic Council

Waidehi Gokhale
Chief Executive Officer, Soliya

Maria J. Stephan
Senior Policy Fellow, USIP

Daniel L. Buccino
Professor, Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Clinical Supervisor and Student Coordinator, Clinical Director, Mood Disorders Clinic at Bayview, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine; Hopkins Civility Initiative, Johns Hopkins University 

Jeff Helsing 
Associate Vice President, Applied Conflict Transformation, U. S. Institute of Peace

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