Last week we held a symposium at George Washington University, here in Washington, D.C. on “Building Bridges: Strengthening Educational & Citizen Exchange Linkages,” following the opening of official diplomatic relations with Cuba. The idea was to bring together those who work with exchange programs to discuss our new U.S. approach on engaging people-to-people with Cuba – of which J-1 plays an integral role.
Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs Evan Ryan wrote about the symposium, and I’d like to share some of her thoughts. As I said at the symposium, these are the relationships that will drive the U.S. and Cuba forward – and I am excited for the J-1 EVP possibilities as we build on the current 49 participants.
As I told the audience of universities, study abroad providers, cultural institutions, NGOs, and organizations that sponsor international visitors through the J-1 visa program, the phrase “historic moment” is truly justified when it comes to the recent re-establishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba. And this new approach has unlocked immense energy around expanding programs connecting the citizens of our two countries — something I find incredibly encouraging because exchanges have a unique and critical role to play. Exchanges allow Americans and Cubans to learn more about each other, rebuild trust, and develop a new relationship. They also help Cubans connect to the world to obtain the knowledge, skills, and networks to improve their own lives. My colleague and Deputy Assistant Secretary Gonzalo Gallegos noted in his closing remarks that it is no longer an era of focusing on what differences we have with one another, rather it is a time to celebrate and build on all that we have in common. I absolutely agree, and assert that exchanges are excellent vehicles to do just that.
The organizations that sponsor J-1 visas are one part of a vibrant community of academic and cultural organizations working to build networks of people who want to live constructively and cooperatively together.
It is my hope that the Building Bridges symposium was just the beginning of a dialogue between this community and the U.S. government on how to create bridges of mutual understanding between the people of the United States and Cuba.
|About Rebecca Pasini|
Deputy Assistant Secretary for Private Sector Exchange
Rebecca A. Pasini joined the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Private Sector Exchanges in July 2023. A career member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister - Counselor, Ms. Pasini has been an American diplomat since 1997.
Ms. Pasini previously served as the Director of Public and Congressional Affairs in the Bureau of Consular Affairs from 2021-2023. Other Washington assignments have included positions in the Bureau of Consular Affairs, the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, the Office of Foreign Missions, and as a liaison to the Department of Homeland Security. She has also completed multiple overseas tours, including as Minister Counselor for Consular Affairs in Islamabad, Pakistan, and as the Consular Chief in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and Belfast, Northern Ireland. Other tours included Mexico City and Kuwait.
A Maryland native, Ms. Pasini has a Ph.D. in Political Science from Indiana University, a master’s degree in National Security and Resource Strategy from the Eisenhower School, National Defense University, and an undergraduate degree from Mary Washington College.
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