During the second week of January, all 146 CCI participants representing 12 countries came together in Arizona for the CCI Program’s annual mid-year Pathways to Success Program.
The Pathways to Success Program (PSP) is a week-long program designed to build participant skills in leadership, reflection, and goal-setting. Under the theme of “Ignite Your Intentions,” this year’s workshops and guest speakers emphasized how CCI participants can turn their intentions into plans, and their plans into action.
This year’s PSP kicked off with one of the week’s many interactive leadership-focused workshops. The founder and president of Inspired Engagement Scott Geddis led the group through an Essential Strengths discussion that encouraged participants to focus on how individual strengths and talents can enhance success and create more effective teams. Later in the week, CCI Alumni Associate Kara Newhouse and Senior Program Manager Sara Mohamed led a workshop on understanding and leveraging personal motivations based on Gretchen Rubin’s New York Times bestselling book “The Four Tendencies.” Both the Essential Strengths and Four Tendencies sessions highlighted how self-awareness can be used as a tool to become a more effective student, employee, and leader.
Three other workshops throughout the week focused on exercising and understanding a variety of communication methods and skills. CCI Alumni Associate Kara Newhouse led a “Telling Your Story” workshop that outlined effective storytelling techniques and prompted participants to begin shaping their own stories about their academic exchange experience so far. The following day Master Certified Trainer Cricket Buchler gave an in-depth workshop presentation titled “Crucial Conversations: Learning the Communication Skills Demonstrated by Top Performers.” Her workshop led participants through the process of distinguishing between personal story and fact, and provided guidance on how to navigate tough conversations that might occur in the workplace or throughout day-to-day life. On the final day of the PSP, participants explored how the nuances of digital communication affects our understanding—or misunderstanding—of today’s news. During a workshop led by Arizona State University professor and media literacy expert Dan Gillmor, participants delved into discussions about how to combat disinformation in their own networks and countries. Each workshop and its accompanying activities demonstrated how communication operates on an interpersonal, professional, and global scale.
Finally, a teamwork activity required participants to learn to work together to construct a wood plank puzzle. During a Connectivity of Global Issues string activity, participants talked through how different global issues are interconnected.
In addition to the variety of guest workshop presenters, other special speakers this year included Lisa Glenn Nobles, Executive Director of Co+Hoots Foundation. She spoke about how creating a social mission enhances corporations and drives profits. Through this interactive workshop, participants reflected on their action plans and worked on creating inspiring legacy statements to represent their values of their work.
The program also welcomed the President of Northern Virginia Community College Dr. Scott Ralls and ECA Branch Chief Jen Gibson, who spoke to participants about the benefits of hosting CCI exchange participants in U.S. community colleges and the benefits of exchange programs to the U.S. government.
To foster long-term engagement with CCI participants when they become alumni, CCI Alumni Relations and Social Media Coordinator Dana Brantley gave a presentation about how to stay connected through State Department and CCI alumni networks. She also shared the variety of opportunities and resources available to CCI alumni such as the CCI Alumni Certificate Programs and CCI LIVE webinars, as well as Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) international exchange alumni resources and opportunities including alumni.state.gov.
After learning about opportunities that they can pursue, this year’s CCI participants were treated to the surprise appearance of six exemplary CCI alumni. Ana Lucia Miranda-Cole of Costa Rica, Vanesa De la Cruz of Colombia, Sharon Rapetswa of South Africa, Jaya Gulo of Indonesia, Gilbert Sabina Lekalau of Kenya, and Pradeep Kumar of India participated in an alumni panel, during which they answered participants’ questions about their challenges and successes after the CCI program. The alumni stories of how they used the skills and experiences gained in the United States to become global CCI difference-makers inspired the current cohort to finish the second half of their exchange program on a strong note and keep the momentum going when they return to their home countries.
The first peer panel, Maximizing Your Remaining Experience, saw CCI participants giving testimonials about how they made the most of their coursework, volunteer opportunities, internships, cultural exchange activities, and more during their first semester in the CCI Program. These participants’ examples provided a model for seeking opportunities rather than waiting for them as their peers headed into the spring semester.
The second peer-led panel of the PSP focused on action plans. Throughout the year, CCI participants develop an action plan to implement upon returning home. During the Action Plan Panel, CCI participants with advanced plans explained their projects to their fellow participants. Following the motivating panel, everyone reevaluated their action plan goals before joining an intensive networking workshop to share ideas and resources. Creating networks with their CCI peers during the PSP is a way to ensure their plans have a global support system after participants leave the United States.
Exploring the surroundings of the mid-year program provided moments to reflect and gave CCI exchange participants a chance to see more of their host country. Cultural excursions included a visit to Horseshoe Bend, a tour through Antelope Canyon, a hike along the southern rim of the Grand Canyon, and silent hikes at several of Sedona’s most well-known red rock formations.
Through a dynamic slate of workshops, speakers, networking sessions, and excursions, the 2018-19 CCI participants gained skills and memories that will fuel their long-term success and help them continue to build mutual understanding during their time in United States and beyond.