Contact: Meredith Dickenson at 214-768-7650
mmdicken@smu.edu

Oct. 6, 2004

AMBASSADORS IN BACKPACKS

A Global Mindset for Young Americans

DALLAS (SMU) -- Stick out your tongue in Tibet and make friends, but don't wave like an American in Greece or you'll insult people.

Just some of the advice in the World Citizens Guide for young Americans published by Business for Diplomatic Action and Southern Methodist University. Created by students for students, its goal is simple: to sensitize, empower and engage young Americans to the notion of global citizenship.

Last year American college students studied abroad in greater numbers than ever before, about 167,000 students, more than twice as many as 20 years ago. Recent polls and other events suggest many of them will face skeptical receptions if not for their nationality, then for their own lack of cultural understanding:

  • The Pew Global Attitudes Project surveyed 16,000 people worldwide in February and found that America's image has taken a sharp drop since last year.
     
  • In June, the Forum on Education Abroad, an association of more than 200 colleges and universities, urged schools to adopt new standards for study-abroad students according to The New York Times.

More than 200,000 copies of the guide will be distributed to college campuses this fall and spring. Business for Diplomatic Action, formed in January to help reduce anti-American sentiment abroad, includes leading professionals from the fields of global communications, marketing, research and media. BDA is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization committed to mobilizing and harnessing the private sector in public diplomacy efforts.

"This may seem a small step toward winning back friends for America, but who better than our young people to be ambassadors representing what's good about America, and learning to be good and sensitive citizens of the world by adopting attitudes and behaviors that will stay with them for a lifetime," said Keith Reinhard, president of DDB Worldwide, who spearheads BDA. "American college students are a ready-made diplomatic corps to help change perceptions overseas. This generation also has more at stake in a world where respect is eroding for the values of our nation."

The World Citizens Guide is not a travel guide. It does not include advice on currency exchanges, hotels and restaurants. This mini-book, designed to fit in travel gear, is full of information and insights culled from a worldwide listening exercise BDA and DDB embarked on in 2003. Much of the content for the book came from foreign nationals working in 130 DDB offices worldwide. Reinhard asked them "If you could advise Americans on what they could do to be better global citizens and to reduce resentment towards them, what would you say?"

From these responses, five students under the tutelage of SMU's Temerlin Advertising Institute Director Patricia Alvey, Ph.D., wrote the copy and designed the guide. The book also was tested among college students. Each chapter poses a series of questions so students will understand how the rest of the world lives and thinks about religion, politics, language, culture and money. The creative team included Lisa B. Coe, Ben Lipsett, Meredith Mathews, Meredith McKee and Katie Springfield.

"In researching this book, we discovered lots of organizations provide students with good travel information, and every publication says to Œbe nice.' But that message is often buried at the end of everything else," Alvey said. "Our little book turns that approach on its head, steps right into the critical conversation and empowers students to enjoy their new environments by embracing the culture and the customs of the country ‹ all the while remembering that they are guests in someone else's home."

A major sponsor of the guide, PepsiCo agree to underwrite the first 200,000 printing.

"It's only natural that we support American students in their quest for knowledge about new and different cultures, and equip them with tips to help them succeed," said Steve Reinemund, chairman and CEO, PepsiCo. "PepsiCo's sponsorship of the World Citizens Guide is a natural extension of our corporate commitment to diversity and inclusion."

The guide will be distributed in partnership with NAFSA: Association of International Educators and Student Travel Abroad (STA) NAFSA, the world's largest nonprofit association dedicated to international education, will make bulk quantities of the guide available to its more than 2,500 members in the field of study abroad. "We are excited to be partnering with Business for Diplomatic Action and SMU to get the World Citizens Guide into the hands of the thousands of American students who will study outside the United States this year. Its emphasis on cultural sensitivity, awareness and listening are important lessons for all of us, and it will be a valuable addition to students' toolboxes as they prepare to live and study abroad," said NAFSA Executive Director and CEO Marlene Johnson.

In addition to these sponsors, UPS is shipping the guides free of charge to more than 800 universities and colleges identified by NAFSA and STA.

To learn more about the World Citizens Guide, go to www.worldcitizensguide.org.


A limited number of media copies are available. Media requesting free copies of the guide can call SMU Office of News and Communications at 214-768-7650. For more information about Business for Diplomatic Action, please contact Cari Eggspuehler, Executive Director, at 415.732.3620 and cari_eggspuehler@sf.ddb.com.

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