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Chemeketa hosts luncheon celebrating international fellows

The fellows from left to right: Fariz Ahmedov, Nguyen Hoang Oanh Le and Noreen Bautista.
Photo by Taylor Wynia

Chemeketa invited international guests from the US State Department’s Professional Fellows Program to share their stories, culture and experiences.

The Professional Fellows Program seeks to promote global partnerships between America and up-and-coming innovative leaders from foreign countries. In total, 55 young-adults were chosen from 19 countries to gain hands-on experience in America through intensive fellowships.

“Salem is very fortunate we have four fellows here,” said Teter Kapan, Director of International Programs at Chemeketa. “It’s pretty amazing.”

These international fellows come to Salem from Azerbaijan, the Philippines, Ukraine and Vietnam. Three were able to make time in their busy schedules to speak at Chemeketa.

Throughout the luncheon, students, faculty and staff listened intently as these three fellows shared their stories.

Fariz Ahmedov, of Baku, Azerbaijan, works as the Head of Division on Regional Affairs for the Ministry of Economy of the Republic of Azerbaijan. The Professional Fellows Program placed Ahmedov with the Oregon Secretary of State in the office of Small Business Assistance under Ruth Miles.

“It helps me to see the ecosystem of small business in Oregon and to compare it with my country,” shared Ahmedov. He hopes to take all of the expertise he’s learned from his placement to help him address economic issues back home.

“I consider that economy is the goal and result of politics,” said Ahmedov. “To take them together [gives] you a very strong understanding of issues.”

Ahmedov learned many things during his time with the office of Small Business Assistance. He plans to utilize everything he’s learned to help his people flourish.

“The United States is amazing,” said Ahmedov, “It’s covering 50 states under one umbrella and managing all of them with no headache. This structure of government for me is amazing.”

“I didn’t choose the politics,” Ahmedov laughed, “Politics chose me.”

Nguyen Hoang Oanh Le is a specialist for the Department of Planning and Investment for Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam. The Professional Fellows Program placed her with the city of Salem’s Urban Development Department.

Nguyen decided to come to America to gain the first-hand experience to help Ho Chi Minh grow. After former president Barack Obama visited Ho Chi Minh and held a town hall meeting for young adults, Nguyen felt motivated to apply for the fellowship program.

“I was very inspired by the way he talked about leadership,” said Nguyen, but it wasn’t just Obama who compelled her to apply.

“[In Ho Chi Minh,] I’m working on developing public-private partnership projects,” shared Nguyen. To help with her work, a mentor of Nguyen’s loaned her a book on similar projects in the US. “When I started reading the book, I really enjoyed the knowledge there, but I didn’t really understand the terms as well how the organizations here are structured.”

To gain more insight, Nguyen decided studying in America would be her best option. Luckily, Nguyen’s supervisor at Salem’s Urban Development Department agreed and made a point to tailor Nguyen’s work to her needs.

“Despite her busy schedule, [my supervisor] would spend time with me to share the documents that I can read on, as well as she would explain the terminology and the organization structure,” said Nguyen. “[She would] talk about how they develop public-private partnerships here, and she even took me to various project sites in order to let me see practical buildings so that it would be more understandable for me. My colleagues are very nice. They have been always willing to answer my questions.”

Noreen Bautista is currently an Event and Community Growth Manager for Connected Women, a social impact tech company, in the city of Iloilo in the Philippines. Based on her strong entrepreneurial history and volunteer work focused on developing the local economy, Bautista was chosen to complete her fellowship in Chemeketa’s very own Small Business Development Center under Celia Nuñez.

“I’m excited,” Bautista said. “The work of Chemeketa’s Small Business Development Center is exactly what I want to take back home.”

The youth of Iloilo are leading the way in independent start-ups. These small businesses are shaping the culture and economy of the city; Bautista is determined to help them thrive. Through her volunteer work with Open Collaboration for East Asia Nations (OCEAN), Bautista helps empower young people and connects their businesses with the local government.

Bautista hopes to use what she’s learned to help these start-ups expand to the next level.

“[The Small Business Development Center] helps whether you’re a start-up business or you’ve been in business for five to 10 years. You go to the center on High Street and they could help you with anything. That’s exactly what I wanted to learn from here because my city [is] one of the fastest growing cities in the Philippines,” said Bautista. “We have similar organizations … But it’s still a very new concept.”

Unfortunately, the fourth fellow placed in Salem, Anna Saienko, could not make it to the luncheon. Saienko, of Chernivtsi, Ukraine, was placed with the Task Force on Public Safety and the Justice Reinvestment Grant Review Committee in the office of Oregon Senator Floyd Prozanski.

Saienko’s work with Public Safety will help her as the head of International Police Cooperation for the Chernivtsi region of Ukraine.

These fellows worked intensely with their supervisors over the course of six weeks to learn as much as possible. Armed with their newfound knowledge, these leaders will help their communities prosper.

If you are interested in an international educational experience, speak with Chemeketa’s Director of International Programs Teter Kapan at (503) 399-5141.

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