VIA provides innovative experiential learning programs in Asia and the United States that promote cross-cultural understanding, build partnerships, and offer transformative experiences for our participants and the communities they serve.
For over 50 years, VIA has sought to provide rich, immersive, cross-cultural learning experiences in the US and Asia that transcend boundaries, transform lives, and strengthen our global community. Faced with unprecedented challenges that are at once local and global, humanity must now expand beyond traditional allegiances and identities, and develop the mindset, skills and abilities needed for an interconnected and interdependent world. On all levels of engagement, VIA seeks to strengthen these skills in individuals and enable them to make a positive impact in their communities and in the world.
The result of these efforts is a continually growing network of alumni, partners, and friends of VIA who communicate and collaborate across borders, start their own non-profits, develop grassroots social change projects, and educate and support the growth of future global citizens.
VIA began in 1963 when Dwight Clark, then Stanford’s Dean of Freshman Men, organized a summer project with Stanford University students. The students assisted programs serving Chinese refugees in Hong Kong through rooftop schools, medical clinics, recreation programs, and road building. The summer reshaped many of these students’ personal and professional goals. They so valued the benefits of their cross-cultural experience that they recruited other students for similar projects. In 1966, the program was incorporated under the name Volunteers in Asia, now VIA.
In the 1960’s and early 1970’s, student participation in VIA programs was shaped by the Vietnam War. VIA then created two-year positions for conscientious objectors seeking “alternative service” opportunities in Indonesia, Japan, the Philippines, Korea, Taiwan and Nepal.
VIA’s Asia Programs
By the end of the Vietnam War, VIA was offering two-year opportunities to graduates and professionals, and short-term posts to undergraduates. It had also extended its programs to students outside Stanford. In 1980, a China program was added to continuing programs in Indonesia and Taiwan. In 1990 VIA volunteers began serving in Vietnam, and in 1992, Thailand. Today, VIA offers a year-long Global Community Fellowship, which places recent university graduates and professionals with partner schools and NGOs in China, Vietnam, Indonesia, Myanmar, Thailand, and most recently, Cambodia. VIA also facilitates summer programs for US and Asian high school and university students in these same countries.
VIA’s Silicon Valley Programs
In 1977, several Japanese universities requested a summer English language and American culture program. The immediate success encouraged VIA to start the Asia Exchange Programs, which now bring more than 350 Asian students to Silicon Valley annually. Current spring and summer programs address a variety of educationally-rich themes, including American language and culture, leadership, medicine and healthcare, social innovation, and design-thinking.