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Academics . Community Works . Visiting Fellow 

Visiting Fellow

International development expert spent a
week at CIA

Stephen G. Vetter was Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellow at CIA 

October 6-10, 2014

When CIA confirmed that Stephen G. Vetter would be a Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellow in the fall of 2014, the news spurred planning for a yearlong academic emphasis on the importance of art and social change – the multi-layered “Community Works: Artist as Social Agent” effort that includes new community projects courses, a national conference, visiting artists, exhibitions, and a symposium.

Rather than dropping in for one lecture and then leaving town, Vetter was in residence at CIA for an entire week, from October 6-10, 2014, meeting with students, faculty, college administrators, staff, board members, and community partners. In total, he addressed or dialogued with 24 different groups, including institution-wide presentations, class visits, dinners with students, a civic forum with elected officials and CIA’s neighborhood and community partners, and several roundtables with faculty and chairs of CIA’s 15 major programs.

“Stephen Vetter brought a fascinating perspective to CIA. Our students had a chance to meet a world-class international development specialist with deep knowledge of social justice, helping to create better understanding and new connections between the academic and nonacademic worlds,” said CIA President Grafton Nunes. “We’re delighted that Steve had time to get to know our CIA community and to explore in depth how our students of art and design relate to the broader society.”

Vetter's public presentations included:

  • A discussion of the capacity of artists and designers to solve social problems on “The Sound of Ideas,” 90.3 WCPN, Cleveland's National Public Radio affiliate station
  • A public conversation on art and social change with CIA President Grafton Nunes at the Friday Forum of The City Club of Cleveland,  broadcast live on 90.3 WCPN

Vetter has served as the President and CEO of Partners of the Americas since 2008, an international non-profit organization that connects volunteers, organizations, and communities in efforts to reduce poverty and improve the economic and social development of disadvantaged populations.  With more than 35 years of experience in international and domestic development, he brought a rich background in: the importance of service learning for students; the power of volunteers in a global society; the loss of social trust and what it means for the new citizen; global environmental change and local responses—what you can do; youth leadership issues; and the importance of a liberal education in a conservative world. He has been especially active in supporting the long-term partnerships between universities, local volunteer organizations and development programs, and is leading the Partners of the Americas partnership with the Department of State and NAFSA to implement President Obama’s 100,000 Strong Initiative in the Americas.

Vetter’s residency at CIA also touched on the stories and experiences reflected in his book Soul Deep: The power to Serve, Connect, and Change Lives. The book is a gripping account of volunteers that have served as leaders via programs of Partners of the Americas and in turn changed the lives of thousands in underprivileged communities across Latin America.

Prior to his arrival at Partners, Vetter held a number of executive-level positions at the Inter-American Foundation (IAF), a public corporation dedicated to supporting the self-help efforts of grassroots communities in Latin America and the Caribbean. He also served as the President and CEO of Eureka Communities, a non-profit leadership program that provided fellowship support to inner city leaders working to improve the life conditions of children and families living in poverty.

Vetter has served on a number of philanthropic, nonprofit, and corporate boards and committees. He served as a member of the steering committee of the Council on Foundation's "Philanthropy Along the Border" initiative, on the White House’s "Summit of the America's Civil Society Task Force," and as an advisory council member on the Board of Yankelovitch Partners Inc., a market research firm serving the Fortune 500 companies. Vetter has also served on the boards of Aid to Artisans, The National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy and on the Ford Foundation’s Committee on Social Justice Philanthropy. He currently serves on the Advisory Board of the 911 Fund, The US Center for Citizen Diplomacy and on the board of the Volunteers for Economic Growth Alliance. He is an active Woodrow Wilson Fellow.

Vetter has an MA in Economics from Ohio University, where he also earned his undergraduate BA degree in Economics. He is fluent in Spanish and Portuguese.

The Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellows program, which is administered by the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) in Washington, DC, brings prominent artists, diplomats, journalists, business leaders, and other professionals to campuses across the United States for a weeklong residential program of classes, seminars, workshops, lectures, and informal discussions. For 35 years, the Visiting Fellows have been introducing students and faculty members at liberal arts colleges to a wide range of perspectives on life, society, community, and achievement, creating better understanding and new connections between the academic and nonacademic worlds. The Visiting Fellows program is available to all four-year colleges and universities. More information is available on CIC’s website at

Vetter’s residency and the other programs included in the Community Works year-long series are all examples of Cores + Connections, CIA's academic commitment to building better futures by engaging students in field-based learning, real-world projects, and social practices in art and design. More info at

Photos from Vetter's Visit

View photos from Vetter's visit to CIA here.

Cuyahoga Arts and Culture