Oak Ridge promotes environmental sustainability in Cambodia through Department of State exchange

POSTED: MAY 24, 2019

This month, the City of Oak Ridge hosted Chanreaksmey Taing, a researcher and lecturer at the Institute of Technology of Cambodia, as part of the Professional Fellows Program. The International City/County Management Association (ICMA), with funding from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA), offers the program under the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI). This two-way exchange embraces the power of individual citizens to find creative solutions to challenges they face in their home communities.

During the month-long fellowship, Ms. Taing experienced life in East Tennessee and saw first-hand how municipal government operates as she sat in on an Oak Ridge City Council meeting and learned about the vital functions of the Public Works Department. She was able to tour Oak Ridge National Laboratory, study the University of Tennessee’s zero waste program, see Sevier County’s Composting Facility, get an inside look at Oak Ridge Schools, and participate in all kinds of community events.

“A month in Oak Ridge has been a success for my professional development and cultural exchange,” Ms. Taing said of her time in Tennessee. “I am amazed to see different remedies for the same challenges we have back home in Cambodia. This opportunity links me with communities, engineers, scientists, public works, AmeriCorps, universities and schools which are important networks for my project implementation and our future collaboration. This once-in-a-lifetime experience goes beyond my expectation of the American culture of giving, especially when you are in the volunteer state.”

“The opportunity to host a professional management fellow through the YSEALI program has been a source of encouragement to our Oak Ridge staff, creating excitement within our organization as to the importance of municipal service,” Oak Ridge City Manager Mark Watson said. “Hosting these future leaders from Southeast Asia allows our employees to recognize the importance of what they do and obtain new ideas from our visitors in a mutually beneficial way.”

“Working with Ms. Taing over the past month has been very satisfying on both a personal and professional level,” Public Works Director Shira McWaters added. “She is engaging and passionate about her work and her commitment to make Cambodia a better place is inspiring. I have learned that there are many similarities between our countries as well as differences that both countries can benefit from.”

Oak Ridge is part of a select group of cities across the nation asked to host a Professional Fellow this session. This is the fifth delegation hosted by Oak Ridge. At the end of the program, all fellows will gather in Washington, D.C., for the Professional Fellows Congress aimed at preparing fellows to implement follow-up projects after their return home and allowing them to network with colleagues from around the world.

Since 2010, ICMA has received awards to manage the Professional Fellows Program funded by the U.S. State Department. The overall goal of the program is to create a global network of emerging local government leaders to positively impact practices at their organizations and in their communities by enriching their leadership skills and cultural understanding and by providing opportunities for knowledge exchange and ongoing collaboration.