Global Ties Arkansas

aka: Arkansas Council for International Visitors

Global Ties Arkansas—formerly the Arkansas Council for International Visitors (ACIV)—is part of the national organization Global Ties U.S., which is based in Washington DC. Global Ties U.S. consists of more than ninety nonprofit organizations around the country. Both Global Ties U.S. and all the ninety-plus organizations are private nonprofits, but they receive international visitors sent to them by the U.S. Department of State. Most of the local organizations are citywide, and a few, such as Global Ties Arkansas, are statewide in coverage. The visitors brought to the United States have been identified as individuals in a position—now or in the future—likely to influence issues related to American foreign policy.

Global Ties Arkansas receives international officials and leaders in the areas of government, agriculture, journalism, education, human relations, freedom of information, social services for the underprivileged, and national defense, as well as members of legislatures, courts, and nonprofits. In 2014, Arkansas received about 150 such visitors. A record number, more than 500 from all over the world, came when Bill Clinton ran for president in 1992.

The national organization began in the l950s under the name COSERV (National Council for Community Services to International Visitors) and was a nonprofit, private-sector link between the U.S. State Department and local organizations in the United States that agreed to receive potential leaders chosen by American embassies. Visitors came to learn about American culture and meet their professional counterparts from around the world. Although both the national and local organizations have changed their names several times, this function has continued unchanged.

In 1962, prominent Arkansas businessman Fred K. Darragh organized a local group to join COSERV, partly in reaction to the negative media attention Little Rock (Pulaski County) had received in the Central High School desegregation crisis of 1957. He also served as president of COSERV at the national level for one year. After his retirement in 1970, Susan Wilkes succeeded him as director and expanded the program, changing the name of the organization to the Arkansas Council for International Visitors and establishing a governing board. She also became president of the national organization, by then called the National Council for International Visitors. At that time, Little Rock was receiving about eighty international visitors a year.

In 1983, University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR) chancellor Dr. Jim Young, an enthusiastic supporter of international activities, announced the affiliation between the university and the Arkansas Council for International Visitors. Also at this time, it became a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Walter Nunn served as first board chair, and Wilkes was the first staff director. A year later, Nunn joined the staff and eventually succeeded Wilkes as director, a position he held from 1990 until his retirement in 2012.

Starting in 1990, the visitor program led to other grant-funded international programs, including Russian business internships, training of Arkansas high school global studies teachers, the Open World program, a partner city in Ukraine, and teacher training projects that have sent more than 300 teachers from the American South to Japan, Mexico, Germany, Guatemala, India, China, and Jamaica. Funding for these activities has come from the U.S. Department of State, Library of Congress, U.S.-Ukraine Foundation, Center for Global Partnership, U.S.-Japan Foundation, Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation in Little Rock, Rockefeller Foundation of New York, and Danforth Foundation.

ACIV cut its ties with UALR in 2009 and moved off-campus. Antoinette (Toni) Carr became the director in 2012. Another board member and board chair, Dr. Jim Stockton of Harrison (Boone County), was appointed to the board of the National Council for International Visitors and served three terms as national board president—the third board member from Arkansas to be national president. ACIV changed its name to Global Ties Arkansas in 2015 to fit with the name change of the national organization to Global Ties U.S.

By 2015, thirty-five current heads of state in the world had been through this program before reaching the highest rank of leadership. Prominent past participants include Anwar Sadat, Margaret Thatcher, and Tony Blair, all of whom came to the United States when they were less known in their own countries but had been identified as future leaders by U.S. embassies. Gordon Brown, former prime minister of the United Kingdom, is the highest-ranking official to visit Little Rock through this program, having come as a little-known member of the British parliament. Visitors sometimes travel to other communities around the state to meet people such as farmers in the Delta, corporate businesspeople in northwestern Arkansas, and students and faculty at the state’s academic institutions.

For additional information:
Global Ties Arkansas (accessed December 7, 2020).

National Council for International Visitors. “A Salute to Citizen Diplomacy: A History of the National Council for International Visitors.” Washington DC: National Council for International Visitors, 1999. Online at (accessed December 7, 2020).

Toni Carr
Global Ties Arkansas


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