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Green River faculty members travel to Delhi for State Department conference


Green River faculty members Barry Bannister, Michelle Marshman and Louise Hull pose at the Living Bridges Conference in Delhi, India. This photo was posted on the facebook page of the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.

Every July, a group of smart, promising students come from all over the world to stay with American families and attend classes at Green River. They are brought here as participants in the Study of the United States Institute, a program run by the State Department.

"It's part of soft diplomacy," faculty participant and sociology instructor Louise Hull said, "a way of getting bright young people of other countries together, having them come to the United States, having them go to college and learn from us." The students take courses on communications, human rights, the U.S. constitution and gender studies.

To this day, Green River is the only community college in the country chosen to participate in SUSI. Director of International Development Barry Bannister has acquired multiple grants totaling over $1.5 million to host these summer institutes.

This past December, Bannister, Hull and Green River history instructor Michelle Marshman flew to the U.S. embassy in Delhi, India to participate in the Living Bridges Conference, an epic first in SUSI history. The State Department and Green River together coordinated the four-day event to follow up with participants and find out how the program had changed them and their communities.

Forty alumni attended the conference from all over the world, including Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka. Many of them had spent time at Green River. They were joined by the U.S. Director of Cultural Affairs, members from the U.S. Embassy in Delhi and dignitaries from around the world.

At the conference, the State Department and SUSI leaders learned that their students had done remarkable things: founded health clinics for women, started primary schools for poor children, founded youth empowerment organizations, and started environmental movements. It was also a forum for cultural exchange, as the students enthusiastically shared their national and religious identities, gender roles, music, food and art with each other.

It was an "incredible gift for faculty to reunite with students, and learn about the work they've done, making positive change in [their] local communities," said Marshman.