Globalizing Your Educational Vision: An Interview with the World Affairs Councils of America CEO, Bill Clifford

Recently,on the same weekend, I had the pleasure of attending two very valuable yet quite different professional gatherings in Washington D.C.   One was the College Board’s Annual AP Conference. The other was the State Department’s Global Teaching Dialogue

The first one lasted 4 days, the latter only 4 hours.   I presented at the AP Conference, but was an active audience member at the State Department.  One had very tight security. The other, well, somewhat tight.  You can guess which was which.

What was the most compelling was the focus of each event.  The AP conference was largely about how to prepare students to do better for the AP exams.  The Global Teaching dialogue was more about preparing students for the realities of today and the future.  This was summed up in two statements by teachers at their respective events.

The first, a HS math teacher at the Global Teaching Dialogue, while sharing his students experiences with collaborating with a class in another nation stated (to all of our surprise) that providing his students  with the global exchange was more important than the math concept he was teaching.  Whaaaattt!?!?

The second was at the AP conference.  When I shared the free, international video conferencing tool Generation Global to the AP US History teachers, no one had heard of it. But the comment that came after is more of a contrast, “I willImage result for world affairs councils of america try this with my non-AP students.”

And there we have it. Why not for every student?  Are you preparing your students for tomorrow?  The long tomorrow… after the test.  One way to modify your vision, augment your practice and students’ experiences is by connecting with the World Affairs Councils of America.

I had the pleasure to interview the CEO of the World Affairs Council, Bill Clifford.  Our transcript is below.  Be sure to spread the word about WACA and get involved with a chapter near you.

Your students will thank you!



1. Bill, tell us about how you got interested and involved in global education.
My interest in global education is lifelong. My father was a college professor and my mother taught grade school Image result for bill clifford world councilbefore becoming an editor in language-arts publishing. During many summers when I was growing up in Massachusetts, my family enjoyed hosting exchange students from all over the world. Those experiences motivated me to study and work abroad. After graduating college, I spent two years on the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program, assigned to a Japanese high school as an assistant language teacher of English. It was wonderful to teach those kids and and an opportunity that led me to graduate school, a career in journalism as a Tokyo-based foreign correspondent for over a decade, and now back in the United States leading the World Affairs Councils of America.
2. Why is it important for students to learn about globalization these days?
There are so many reasons why it is important for students to be well-versed in international studies, world cultures, and civics. We are living in an era where the movement of people, goods and services, and ideas within and across borders is faster and more consequential than ever. Political and social change is rapid and disruptive, hastened also by technological developments. While standards of living have improved for much of the world’s growing population, there are still hundreds of millions who live in poverty. Climate change, conflict, and other challenges facing democracies could deepen emerging economic divides and worsen living conditions for many. And every young citizen should be aware of the competition for jobs in the global marketplace and what the future of work looks like.Image result for academic world quest
3.What should educators know about the World Affairs Councils?
The World Affairs Councils of America (WACA) is an umbrella organization made up of more than 90 nonprofit, nonpartisan affiliates, from Maine to Hawaii and from Alaska to Florida. The broad  mission of World Affairs Councils at the local level is to convene inclusive public forums and provide access to leaders and experts with whom members of the community can engage in discussions about U.S. foreign policy and critical global issues. Teachers and students are welcome to attend Council events.
Some Councils also offer specialized programs for teachers and students, and program staff should be contacted directly. WACA and some 50 of our World Affairs Councils also pride ourselves on our Academic WorldQuest program for high school students. Academic WorldQuest is an exciting team-based knowledge competition that involves about 5,000 students annually. I encourage teachers, parents, and students to learn more about AWQ on our website. For those who are interested but are not able to locate a Council in their area, please contact the WACA national office.
4. Can you tell us about some success stories of teachers and schools benefiting from WAC programs.
In addition to Academic WorldQuest, whose popularity has soared since its launch 16 years ago, the Great Decisions program of the Foreign Policy Association (New York) has engaged high school and university students for several decades. WACA enjoys a partnership with the United States Institute of Peace that includes USIP’s sponsorship Related imagesupport of Academic WorldQuest and WACA’s promotion of USIP’s Peace Day Challenge and outreach to Councils for International Peace Day activities. WACA for several years offered “Spotlight on Turkey,” a program for teachers that was funded by the Turkish Cultural Foundation. This program included a study tour component during the summer, but unfortunately the domestic situation in Turkey caused the program to be suspended. 
San Francisco-based World Affairs offers a half dozen education programs – summer study abroad, policy simulation, meet-the-speaker, international career night, and summer institutes – that are designed to develop young people into “global citizens.” Last but not least, the WACA National Board provides scholarships to promising undergraduates for attending WACA’s annual three-day National Conference in Washington, DC.
5. What is on the horizon for WACA?
I like that word. WACA has just launched the New Horizons fundraising campaign, which includes an endowment fund for Academic WorldQuest. This campaign aims to raise more than $3 million so that WACA will have the resources to sustain and grow our flagship programs as well as increase the national office’s capacity to serve and strengthen local Councils.
This year’s WACA National Conference (November 15-17) will focus on “The Future of American Leadership.” We are pleased with the fast-growing audience turnout for our monthly “Cover to Cover” nationwide conference calls with prominent authors.
The popularity of this program has led us to launch an additional conference call series this year called “Know Now,” featuring local, national, and international thought leaders. Our conference calls are recorded and converted to podcasts. Later this month, WACA will unveil a redesigned website, and we are amplifying our presence online by stepping up our social media activities.

6. How can someone get involved with World Affairs Councils?
There are many ways to get involved: Attend the events of local Councils and participate in WACA’s national programs; explore internships and job opportunity listings; financially support the Council network by sponsoring programs or making a donation; volunteer your time to assist with Council projects or office work; and be sure to subscribe to local Council and WACA national newsletters to read the latest news about our efforts to bring the world to you.
7.  Any final thoughts you want to share?
We live in the Information Age, but many people struggle to understand what’s going on – in their local communities or in the global community. Several factors explain this – the sheer volume of information that comes at people across many platforms, the polarization of the news media, propaganda from governments, and a variety of challenges in our schools at every level. World Affairs Councils can’t solve all those problems, but we can play our part: We can encourage people to become active citizens who care about conducting civil conversations, who care about learning throughout their lives, and who care to take the time to participate in high-quality programs that will help them make new connections and better decisions with globally-minded people.
Thank you Bill.  I look forward to another school year working and learning together.

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