Associates in Cultural Exchange: Helping People Make Connections Worldwide
“Our organization plans to steadily develop ties across China through the education sector, with many Chinese students coming to study in A.C.E. Language Institutes and groups of professionals coming to the U.S. for tailored training.”
~David Woodward, President and CEO, Associates in Cultural Exchange
David Woodward is the President & CEO of Associates in Cultural Exchange* (A.C.E.), which he first joined in 1980. He has 33 years of professional international experience, including 23 years of senior management roles, in international business management, consultancy, and educational exchange programs and services involving clients from all major world markets. He became President and CEO of A.C.E. in 1998.
Woodward has led A.C.E. in the development of various business startups and educational projects involving small businesses, universities, corporations, and government agencies within the U.S. and in peer regions of the world.
Woodward was born in Teheran, Iran, and spent his early youth in Southern Iran. He received a National Resource Fellowship in Near Eastern Languages and Civilization while at the University of Washington, and taught English as a foreign language at Kuwait University (1982-83).
Woodward is fluent in Arabic, Persian, and French and has studied Hebrew and Greek. He is a member of the U.S. Secretary of Commerce-appointed District Export Council for Washington State, the Seattle Rotary Club, the Advisory Board of the Trade Development Alliance of the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce, the Global Business Advisory Board of Seattle University’s Albers School of Business and Economics, the Middle East Interest Group of NAFSA: Association of International Educators, and a member of the Taproot Theatre Advisory Board.
*DBA for American Cultural Exchange, a 501(c)3 founded in Seattle in 1973
Q: What does Associates in Cultural Exchange do?
A: Since 1973, A.C.E. has been helping people and organizations around the world create new connections and build interpersonal networks with those of other language and cultural backgrounds. A.C.E.’s Core Strategies involve language and intercultural education including:
- Intensive English as a Second Language institute operation on university campuses
- World Language & Culture Ambassador curriculum for children in local schools
- cross-cultural orientation programs
- academic and career preparation services
- tailored training programs for groups from overseas
- high school programs abroad
- conference management
- educational tours
- consulting services
Q: How did you become interested in a career in international education?
A: I grew up interested in a range of cultures, languages, and subject areas. I was born in Iran to American parents, lived there to age 11, and was exposed to four languages. So going into a career in international education was a natural fit.
By following a dual track of preparation in teaching English as a second language as well as Near Eastern Languages and Civilization, I was drawn to work which was varied, international, and constantly changing. I was very fortunate to land with A.C.E. early in my career and also to be allowed to grow within the organization. It amazes me more than anybody that I’ve been with A.C.E. over 30 years of my career.
Q: What new opportunities do you see for A.C.E. to develop ties with China?
A: While I have not formally studied East Asian languages and cultures, my exposure to them has taught me that there are many fascinating commonalities between East Asia and the Middle East, especially in terms of Persian language, culture, and way of thinking. After all, the Chinese and Persian empires were neighbors for 1,000 years with constant trade and interaction between them.
On a personal level I’ve greatly enjoyed engaging with Chinese colleagues, visiting China on several occasions, and learning a few phrases of the language.
Our organization plans to steadily develop ties across China through the education sector, with a great many Chinese students coming to study in A.C.E. Language Institutes and groups of professionals coming to the U.S. for tailored training. Eventually we hope to send students to China for cultural and language study. In addition, we expect to play a role in facilitating relationships between educational, governmental, and private institutions in both countries as we have done around the world.
Q: What exciting cultural exchange projects is A.C.E. engaged in?
A: We are supporting a sister state initiative between the State of Montana and Guangxi Province in partnership with Montana State University. We hope this develops into a broad relationship through educational exchange.
We have been facilitating training of Korean teachers of English in Washington State since 2005 and have trained over 250 teachers over that time period. Our primary partner in Korea is the Gangwan Province International Language Institute.
Also, as of fall 2011, we now represent STEP Eiken of Japan in the U.S., providing testing in English via the Eiken test to 3,000 Japanese expatriates a year through our Los Angeles office. This is the national English test of Japan given to 2,000,000 Japanese students a year.
Q: What changes are you seeing in companies that invest in multicultural training and education?
A: U.S. organizations have historically had a tendency to undervalue real cultural and linguistic know-how, to their own detriment. In recent years we have seen a shift as large and small companies have begun to invest more in training and education related to doing business in a multicultural environment. This will no doubt help make American enterprises much more competitive globally.
Q: What advice do you have for others about how to be successful in this region or line of business?
A: One must think in terms of very long-term relationships. It is not advisable to be in a hurry in East Asia, but to be respectful of the complexity and depth of Asian relationships internally and with foreigners.
We rely heavily on experts who we know in guiding us to the appropriate people, institutions, and opportunities. We also appreciate any project, no matter how seemingly small and inconsequential, in the early phase of a relationship. Once we have established our seriousness and commitment, greater opportunities tend to come our way.