November 10, 2016
Welcome remarks by Ambassador James Brewster
Rennaissance Jaragua Hotel
Sol de Oro Salon
November 10, 2016
Honorable MESCYT Vice Minister Placido Gómez;
Honorable President, of EDUCA, Jose Mármol;
Honorable Dr. Ann Mason;
Distinguished representatives of academia, guests and friends;
Thank you all for coming to the ConnectDR conference to promote higher education partnerships between Dominican and U.S. educational institutions to help shape and develop the Dominican work force of tomorrow. I want to thank EDUCA’s team, headed by President Mármol and his very capable Executive Director Darwin Caraballo, for organizing this conference in conjunction with LASPAU, affiliated with Harvard University.
At the U.S. Embassy in Santo Domingo, we see international education as a core component of our foreign policy. The United States welcomes international students because they help bring new perspectives into classrooms, they contribute more than $30 billion each year to the U.S. economy, and – upon returning home – they contribute to a better understanding of U.S. ideals, policies, and culture.
To support continued increase of student exchange between the U.S. and Latin America, President Obama announced the 100,000 Strong in the Americas initiative, with the goal of boosting educational exchange – in both directions – between the United States and the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean. As President Obama put it: “When we study together, we learn together, we work together, and we prosper together.”
In response to President Obama’s call, the U.S. Embassy reached out to the Dominican National Business Council (CONEP), an alliance of private sector organizations, to establish an educational network to boost academic exchange between the Dominican Republic and the United States. Through our consultations with the private sector, we learned about the need to align educational curricula with the emerging needs of the Dominican workforce. CONEP then asked EDUCA, its educational advisory branch, to work with the Embassy on the ConnectDR initiative.
For the past year, our Embassy has collaborated with EDUCA and our partners in higher education to build ConnectDR. Thanks to the ConnectDR Coordinator, a number of you have come together for workshops and seminars about how to create relevant exchange programs to address priority areas of economic development for the Dominican Republic. This year, a record number of Dominican delegates traveled to Denver, Colorado, to attend NAFSA, the largest international education conference in the world, where they promoted ConnnectDR with their U.S. colleagues. At the conference, the Dominican Republic elevated its educational profile in the hemisphere and showed U.S. audiences how much it has to offer to students in terms of academics, language, culture, service opportunities, and tourism.
Our task today is to consider how international education aligns with the needs of the Dominican work force. Is the Dominican educational system preparing students adequately to participate in all sectors of your economy? Are there opportunities for Dominican students to obtain undergraduate and graduate education in the United States to fill a particular labor gap? How can both of our nations encourage and facilitate study for U.S. students in the Dominican Republic, or provide training and expertise through academic exchange programs? How can we broaden the scope of students participating? When Dr. Jill Biden was here recently, for example, she had the opportunity to visit San Luis Community College and see for herself some of the great technical education happening there. Is there more we can do in this field?
It is our hope that the ConnectDR network will spur greater collaboration between the United States and the Dominican Republic in terms of higher education. We seek to boost the numbers of students in both countries who are able to participate in meaningful exchange programs for the benefit of each of our economies.
I am delighted to see representatives from the private sector, public sector, higher education, and civil society here today. We all play a role in promoting quality education for our youth. We have a challenging agenda ahead of us, so let’s get started!