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New Leadership at the Alliance for International Exchange

WAT - Industry News - Ilir ZherkaAs mentioned in our September newsletter, the Alliance for International Exchange is an association of nongovernmental organizations, including J-1 visa sponsors, that advocates for international exchange. After 21 years of service to the industry, Michael McCarry, executive director for the Alliance for International Exchange, is retired at the end of 2015. Michael’s leadership has significantly contributed to our successes on the Hill, advocating for Summer Work Travel during times of change. His contributions to international exchanges have been invaluable and he will be greatly missed.

During the annual Alliance Membership Meeting in October, the Board of Directors appointed Ilir Zherka as the new Executive Director. According to the Alliance for International Exchange, “Zherka has 18 years of non-profit membership experience at the National Conference on Citizenship, DC Vote, and the National Albanian-American Council. With strong relationships on Capitol Hill, he has developed a solid track record in advocacy and is experienced at fundraising and media relations.” We welcome Ilir Zherka as the new executive director, effective January 1, 2016, and look forward to working closely with him.

The annual Alliance Membership Meeting allows J-1 visa sponsors to catch up on news in the world of exchanges, discuss best practices, and attend discussion panels with the Department of State. In her presentation to the sponsors, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Private Sector Exchange Robin Lerner reflected on the increasing quality of the exchange programs. She and her staff have increasingly spent time on the road visiting participants and gathering feedback. You can follow their visits through their Route J-1 blog. Lerner called 2016 the “Year of the Host.” The Department recognizes the important role that employers play in the quality of exchange visitors’ experiences.

– Mary Anne Higgins, CIEE Compliance & Policy Manager