From Citizen Diplomacy to National Security: Reraming the International Visitor Leadership Program

Degree Name

MA in International Education

First Advisor

Linda Gobbo


The International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) of the U.S. Department of State is a formidable tool of public diplomacy and soft power. By offering opportunities for international visitors and everyday Americans to interact, it supports the building of durable, cross-border relationships that contribute to a better understanding of the United States and an affinity for its values and interests. Now, increasing competition for federal funding and the rise of national security as a predominant policy frame pose challenges for advocates of U.S. government exchange programs like IVLP. Increasingly, advocates find themselves tasked with linking these programs to the attainment of national security and other foreign policy goals. This research project aims at understanding the implications of this reframing. I ask, in what ways might current efforts to reframe IVLP for advocacy purposes impact the elements of this initiative that have made it so effective as a tool of foreign engagement? To explore this question, I draw from and integrate literature from multiple fields: studies within the realm of policy analysis and policy framing, historical and conceptual literature on public and citizen diplomacy, and research on adult and experiential learning. This literature points to a number of key elements of IVLP: the public-private partnership that underpins the program, and the incorporation of adult learning and experiential learning opportunities into programming. To contextualize IVLP and understand its historical trajectory, I discuss the program’s intimate relationship with political and cultural shifts in U.S. foreign policy over time; I also present the current manifestation of this initiative and programmers’ views on prospects for the future. Drawing from active participant research and interviews with a range of IVLP advocates and programmers, this study sheds light on the durability of international professional exchange programs like IVLP, and offers insights into the relationship between advocacy and programming.


International and Comparative Education | International Relations | Public Policy

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