Premier U.S. exchange program calls on UR International director

By Costa Maragos Posted: June 6, 2016 6:00 a.m.

Livia Castellanos, Executive Director of UR International, was invited by the U.S. Government to take part in a unique exchange program.
Livia Castellanos, Executive Director of UR International, was invited by the U.S. Government to take part in a unique exchange program. Photo by Rae Graham - U of R Photography

Livia Castellanos, Executive Director of UR International, is about to follow in the footsteps of some very famous people.

Castellanos has been invited to take part in the U.S. State Department’s premier professional exchange program.

The International Visitor Leadership Program brings together current and emerging leaders from around the world to the United States. Participants are nominated by foreign service officers at U.S. embassies around the world.
Castellanos was nominated by the U.S. Consul General based in Calgary, Alberta. She is just one five Canadians nominated.

“I am surprised to be recognized with this. I never thought that the work we are doing at UR International would ever catch the attention of foreign governments and other people around the world. I am honoured and very proud of my team,” says Castellanos.

The International Visitor Leadership Program started in 1940 under the direction of former U.S. Vice-President Nelson Rockefeller.

In past 75 years, more than 200,000 people from over 190 countries have taken part in the exchange program, and of those, 1200 have been invited from Canada.
Alumni include at least 335 current and former heads of state and countless industry and civil society leaders.

They include (year attended in brackets):

  • Indira Gandhi (1961) – Prime Minister of India.
  • Margaret Thatcher (1967) - Prime Minister of Britain.
  • Edward Schreyer (1978) - Governor-General of Canada.
  • Anders Fogh Rasmussen (1982) - NATO Secretary-General
  • Felipe Calderon (1992) - Mexico President
  • Valery Giscard d’Estaing (1958) – France President

Participants meet with professional counter parts and visit U.S. public and private sector organizations related to their field of interest.

Visitors are offered the opportunity to experience American political, economic, social and cultural life with the hopes of breaking down barriers and finding common ground on critical issues.

Castellanos’ trip, June 6 -14, will cover a wide range of matters relating to education, including expanding international exchange programs and explore collaborations with American educational institutions.

The program will be officially launched in Washington, DC with a welcome by the U.S. State Department. Castellanos and her delegation will also visit Raleigh, North Carolina and Minneapolis, Minnesota.

“I am excited to explore more exchange opportunities for our students and that includes further academic collaborations with American educational institutions,” says Castellanos. “At UR International we have worked hard to create an abundance of exchange agreements with universities around the world. Such endeavours, including our Study Abroad initiatives, as well as our international scholarship programs help broaden our students’ educational horizons.”

For Castellanos, her journey to the U of R is sure to inspire.

Born and raised in Mexico, she arrived in Canada as an exchange student in the late nineties. She’s a lawyer by training.

She now has nearly two decades of experience in the field of international education and positions in different Canadian Universities. She accepted the position of UR International in Regina in 2010.

Since then, Castellanos and her UR International team have accomplished a great deal through collaborations internally with faculty, students and staff and externally with provincial, national and international governments, agencies and institutions.

Under her leadership, international student enrolment has increased 94 per cent at the U of R.  The University of Regina’s fall enrolment statistics indicated nearly 2,000 students – 13.7 per cent of the student population – are international.