Global Educational Concepts (GEC), a member of Southwestern Family of Companies, is a provider of support and service to international students through sponsoring cultural exchanges with the Department of State’s J-1 Summer Work Travel and Internship programs. The J-1 Intern/Trainee program’s primary purpose is a cultural exchange training opportunity to enhance the skills and expertise of the interns in their academic or occupational fields. Eligible participants in the intern program are full-time students or recent graduates who participate in a work-based learning environment of up to 12 months to develop practical skills that will enhance their future careers.
The J-1 Summer Work Travel program’s primary purpose is to promote public diplomacy efforts through cultural exchanges between people of different countries. Eligible participants are full-time students visiting the U.S. during their academic summer break. GEC promotes a better understanding and appreciation between citizens of the U.S. and countries around the world through public diplomacy exchanges.
On June 13 and 14, 2019, GEC and Southwestern Advantage hosted Tennessee Sen. Marsha Blackburn, Assistant Secretary of State Marie Royce, and Bulgarian Ambassador Tihomir Stoytchev at the Nashville campus, where they each addressed 200 international students who participated in the U.S. Department of State’s exchange visitor program.
Senator Blackburn, an alumna of the Southwestern Advantage program and the first female district sales manager in the company, inspired each of the students as she shared her experiences in the program and how that led to the U.S. Senate. Assistant Secretary Royce spoke on the value that exchange visitors bring to the U.S. and discussed their health, safety, and well-being while in the U.S. Ambassador Stoytchev shared the ways that this very important program has positively impacted his home country of Bulgaria.
Watch the full video below of Senator Marsha Blackburn’s address to the dealers during Southwestern Advantage’s Sales School this past July.
The organization has grown immensely, especially over the past three years, under the leadership of Stephanie Branch, director of operations, who was part of the creation of GEC, and Dave Causer, who has served as president for the past 12 years.
Dave along with Vice-President Muzo Unluel’s joint strategic leadership and planning has built GEC into the successful business it is today. Approximately 750 students were participating in the program during their first few years of service together. Today, the international exchange program has nearly 2,750 participants living, working and training across the U.S.
Other key players that have helped expand GEC’s reach include Tony Ripley (Director), who started the Global High School Training Program, and Cem Arituluk, who started the Global Teacher Exchange Program. All have played an integral part in GEC’s growth and impact that has been an incredible international bridge for Southwestern as a whole. GEC has brought us into the diplomacy business with their efforts to help spread U.S. values worldwide.
“I do not know of a time in our country’s history where these types of cultural exchanges to develop a better understanding between people are more important than right now.”
– Dave Causer