Bringing the World to Indianapolis

By Christine Burns, IVLP Intern

Did you happen to see a group of Belarusian librarians milling around St. Clair Street in front of the Indianapolis Central Library? How about the French prosecutor walking through the hall of the U.S. District Court? Did you notice the group from Bolivia heading down Meridian Street on their way to a meeting with the Provost and Chief Academic Officer of Harrison College? These international guests are part of the International Visitors Leadership Program that is administered by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. So, why are these visitors from faraway lands in Indianapolis?
The International Visitors Leadership Program (IVLP) is designed to build mutual understanding between the U.S. and other countries through visits that reflect the participants’ professional interests and that support U.S. foreign policy goals. These visits often include four or five cities throughout the U.S. Thanks to the International Center’s IVLP manager, Beth Barich, one of these cities is often Indianapolis. The role of the IVLP manager is to set up professional as well as cultural and social appointments during the visitors’ stay in Indianapolis. This sounds quite simple, but, in fact, it is quite a complex process.

An IVLP group visit to Indianapolis usually lasts three to five days. After ascertaining the professional needs of the international visitors, the IVLP manager must identify, schedule and coordinate the professional resources available in Indianapolis. Although Indianapolis is a fairly small city, one would be amazed at the wealth of resources available here in diverse arenas such as education, government, small business development, library science, trade & investment as well as NGO management. The list goes on! Furthermore, Ms. Barich organizes lodging facilities, transportation options, and cultural activities as well as home hospitality dinners in order to show the IVLP visitors the full extent of Hoosier hospitality.

Of course, the IVLP manager would not be able to accomplish this without the assistance of the other staff members at The International Center as well as community members like you! The International Center is filled with experts who understand the complexity and sensitivity of hosting international visitors. I have been lucky enough to bear witness to this expertise as an IVLP intern at The International Center. Not only have I been amazed by the wealth of knowledge within this organization, I have witnessed the final product by accompanying international guests during their visit to Indianapolis. Inevitably, these guests are quite impressed with the friendliness and professionalism from everyone they encounter in Indianapolis. This is largely a result of the behind-the-scenes work performed by The International Center!

So, the next time you are on an international voyage and someone asks where you are from, you need to proudly state, “Indianapolis!” Chances are…they may have been here already.