2015 In Review

The year began with a little community rivalry for all as the second annual, ONE World Gala and global trivia competition grew by 50%. The event marked the largest gala that the Greater Cincinnati World Affairs Council (GCWAC) has held to date, thanks to the participation of some of the most prominent Greater Cincinnati leaders.

Over 3,000 students received global education programs in and outside the classroom due to the funds raised at this event and throughout the year for the purpose of increasing the global competence skills of this region’s students. Our council is the leader in preparing students to compete in the 21st century global environment.

The council worked with many partner schools this year including 16 public schools and 9 private schools such as University of Cincinnati, Miami University, Academy of World Languages, Winton Woods High School – Academy of Global Studies and Oak Hills Local School District.

Highlights of the 2015 global education programs:

International Education Summit (IES): Global Climate Change & Sustainability

This popular education event exposes students to international careers and opportunities through speed networking after they graduate high school.  View this video to learn more…


“Spruce Up Rio” App – Google Play & Apple links can be found here!Together with the GCWAC, Northern Kentucky University (NKU), Pleasant Ridge Montessori (PRM), and Partnership for Innovative Education (PIE), we launched the “Spruce Up Rio” App developed by PRM students.  Continue reading…

Global Classrooms reaches students in K-8th grade by connecting our international exchange visitors and international students from our local colleges with students in the classroom. Through this face to face interaction, our students benefit from a genuine connection to cultural diversity. This year, we featured student presenters from Japan, China, and Guatemala in addition to international visitors from Vietnam, Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Croatia, Czech Republic, Republic of Korea, Ukraine, Spain and more.

We celebrated throughout the year, inviting friends and nontraditional audiences to take part in the unique speaker events. The Council made it a priority to collaborate and partner on events in 2015. Through this effort the Council was able to reach over 750 community members through 15 global events in 2015.

Celebrating the 25 years of German Unity with the German Ambassador Peter Wittig and local Honorary Consul to Germany and GCWAC Board Member, Martin Wilhelmy


Borrowing from the “Press Gaggles” held at the White House & the United Nations, the GCWAC has created its own Global Gaggles, held 4 times a year. Thanks to our international exchange programs through the U.S. Department of State International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) visiting global experts engage local audiences in dialogue about global issues that affect us all.

Topics this year included supporting survivors of gender based violence with visitors from Burkina Faso, Madagascar, Mauritius, Nigeria, South Africa, and Swaziland – Gold Star Ms. Denise Koninckz Horta joined us from Argentina to discuss English as a Second Language and teaching Argentinian students about the American culture – Empowering European Youth through Entrepreneurship and Innovation from Croatia, Latvia, Spain, and Turkey – & Women Leaders: Promoting Peace and Security from Fiji, Malaysia, Myanmar, and Vietnam 

Not to be left out:  2015 was the 75th anniversary of the premier exchange program hosted locally by the GCWAC – the U.S. Department of State International Visitor Leadership Program. The council with professional and cultural partners hosted over 250 visitors in the community from 65 countries. Visiting delegations brought approximately $250,000 to the region’s economy. Outside of the economic impact, the intercultural exchange of people and ideas impacted our youth, the city’s professionals, and the community at large.

International Delegate – Tom Vandenkendelaere, Belgium Member of Parliament, on the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) at a Bengals Game!

“By focusing on issues that affect us all—such as the importance of the democratic process and civil society, equal rights for women and girls, and global entrepreneurship—and by cultivating a pluralistic and inclusive approach to the rights and dignity of all people, these exchanges speak to and underscore our common hopes and dreams,” wrote President Obama to celebrate our achievements.

“We learned more about the products that we carried, that we can now share with our customers,” said Jimmy Bonaminio, Jungle Jim’s International Market.

The council received quite a bit oattention over the past year from featured blogs the GCWAC online international community resource: Global Cincinnati.

Featured blogs included:  Between Two Continents: A New American’s Perspective
Global education plus STEM = Spruce Up Rio App
International Musicians in Cincinnati
Energy Efficiency on an International Scale
Munich Sister City Association celebrates its first 25 years
Global Competency Who needs it?

Did you miss it? Click here to read more blogs.

Of course, I cannot close the year out without thanking all our Board of Directors, Advisory Board, GCWAC community members, host families, volunteer professionals, and interns. The GCWAC would not be able to make the impact that we do in the community without each and everyone one of you! 

Visitors at Jungle Jim’s International Market

Thank you also to our Board Chair, Catharina Toltzis, for serving in this position for the past 3 years and will be stepping down as chair. Her influential leadership has truly made this organization more effective, more structurally sound, and more visible around the community. I cannot say how thankful I am to have worked with her as a board chair for my first years as the Executive Director. It is always a pleasure to work with her not only in a professional manner but it has been personally enriching as well. 

I am very proud of my team and all of our community for helping to make this global work important. I am not saying the council has all the solutions but the world is only getting smaller. We must strive together to understand other cultures, professions, and economics all over the world. 


Congratulations on a great year! Thank you.



Written by Michelle Harpenau, Executive Director of the Greater Cincinnati World Affairs Council

Follow her on Twitter!  @mharpenau23 

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