WGBH News and Media Relations


November 6, 2017

WGBH Educational Foundation Receives Grant From The Aspen Institute Stevens Initiative To Expand Virtual Exchange Between Middle School Students In The United States, Jordan, Lebanon, Syrian Refugees


November 6, 2017 – The Stevens Initiative today announced the award of a 16-month grant to the WGBH Educational Foundation, one of 13 new grants funded through an international competition to use online, collaborative learning to increase cross-cultural understanding and equip young people with the skills needed to thrive in a 21st century economy.

WGBH Educational Foundation is among the second cohort of virtual exchange programs to be funded by the Stevens Initiative, an international effort to build career and global competence skills for young people in the United States and the Middle East by growing and enhancing the field of virtual exchange: online, international and collaborative learning. The Initiative honors the legacy of Ambassador Chris Stevens, who devoted his life to building bridges between people from different cultures.

The new programs will expand the Initiative’s reach to 30,000 students in 18 countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and 31 American states.

Under the Stevens Initiative, WGBH Educational Foundation and its network of partners will expand its Design Squad Global (DSG) clubs to more MENA sites. Through virtual cultural exchanges, DSG clubs foster creative problem solving, engineering, design process and global competency skills in students aged 10-13. The expanded program will connect students in afterschool and in-school programs in Jordan and Lebanon to peers in underrepresented rural and urban communities in the US, empowering participants to see themselves as agents of change as they engineer solutions to challenges in their communities.

Other examples of the work to be undertaken by the second cohort include: 

  • A program that uses virtual exchange to improve global citizenship and problem-solving skills among hospitality students in the United States and Jordan;
  • An entrepreneurship program for students in Michigan, Egypt, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia to develop an idea and enhance their pitches;


Design Squad Global introduces middle school-aged youth to the design process, giving them the critical-thinking and collaborative skills to engineer solutions to the things they care about in their own communities—including protecting the environment, improving their schools and making people’s lives better,” said Mary Haggerty, Director of First 8 Labs and Media Engagement at WGBH. “WGBH is grateful to the Aspen Institute Stevens Initiative for supporting our efforts to promote design thinking, engineering and cross-cultural understanding among youth who will engineer a future for all of us.”

“With the support of the Stevens Initiative, young people from the United States, the Middle East and North Africa are connecting and learning together – gaining important skills while learning about global cultures,” said Elliot Gerson, Executive Vice President of Policy and Public Programs of the Aspen Institute. “We look forward to working with WGBH Educational Foundation to scale the Initiative to Jordan and Lebanon.”

The Initiative’s second grant competition was open to US and MENA educational institutions and non-profit organizations. It prioritized virtual exchange projects that focused on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM); projects that are rooted in project-based learning; projects that support the education of refugees across the MENA region; and projects that propose in-person exchange to complement the virtual learning experience.

The other Stevens Initiative grantees announced today are:

  • Al-Quds University
  • An-Najah National University
  • Arab Academy for Science, Technology and Maritime Transport
  • Arizona State University
  • Ball State University
  • Institute of International Education
  • IREX
  • Johns Hopkins University
  • Karam Foundation
  • Sister Cities International
  • University of Nebraska – Lincoln
  • William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan


Design Squad Global is produced by WGBH, America’s preeminent public broadcaster and the largest producer of PBS content for TV and the Web.

Housed at the Aspen Institute, the Stevens Initiative is a collaboration between the family of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, the U.S. Department of State, the Bezos Family Foundation, the governments of the United Arab Emirates and Morocco, and Microsoft, Twitter, Vidyo, and LRNG.  Visit us at www.stevensinitiative.org.   

More Information

The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) builds relations between the people of the United States and the people of other countries through academic, cultural, sports, professional and private exchanges, as well as public-private partnerships and mentoring programs. These exchange programs improve foreign relations and strengthen the national security of the United States, support U.S. international leadership, and provide a broad range of domestic benefits by helping break down barriers that often divide us. Visit eca.state.gov.

The Bezos Family Foundation supports rigorous, inspired learning environments for young people, from birth through high school, to put their education into action. Through investments in research, public awareness, systems building and programs, the foundation works to elevate the field of education and improve life outcomes for all children.

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, DC. Its mission is to foster leadership based on enduring values and to provide a nonpartisan venue for dealing with critical issues. The Institute is based in Washington, DC; Aspen, CO; and on the Wye River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. It also has offices in New York City and an international network of partners. For more information, visit https://www.aspeninstitute.org/

About WGBH

WGBH Boston is America’s preeminent public broadcaster and the largest producer of PBS content for TV and the Web, including MasterpieceAntiques Roadshow, Frontline, Nova, American Experience, Arthur and more than a dozen other primetime, lifestyle and children’s series. WGBH’s television channels include WGBH 2, WGBX 44, and the digital channels World and Create. WGBH TV productions focusing on the region’s diverse community include Greater BostonBasic Black and High School Quiz Show. WGBH Radio serves listeners across New England with 89.7 WGBH, Boston’s Local NPR®; 99.5 WCRB Classical Radio Boston; and WCAI, the Cape and Islands NPR® Station. WGBH also is a major source of programs for public radio (among them, PRI’s The World®), a leader in educational multimedia (including PBS LearningMedia™, providing the nation’s educators with free, curriculum-based digital content), and a pioneer in technologies and services that make media accessible to deaf, hard of hearing, blind and visually impaired audiences. WGBH has been recognized with hundreds of honors: Emmys, Peabodys, duPont-Columbia Awards and Oscars. Find more information at wgbh.org.


WGBH Media Relations

Emily Balk

Catherine Burke