Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative

An initiative launched in 2013 by the U.S. Department of State, the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) aims to strengthen leadership development in Southeast Asia.

Beginning in the fall of 2015, and spanning over the course of the academic year, 250 YSEALI Academic Fellows will take part in the YSEALI student exchange program across the United States. Supported by U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative participants are among over 40,000 individuals participating in U.S. Department of State exchange programs each year.

At the historic 2022 U.S.-ASEAN Special Summit in Washington, D.C., President Biden and Vice President Harris announced that the 10 year anniversary of the YSEALI program would see it significantly expand. The number of participants will double in size to 500 each year. UConn is proud to administer this remarkable program of the U.S. Department of State.

For more than sixty years, ECA has funded and supported programs that seek to promote mutual understanding and respect between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. Other ECA programs include the Fulbright Program and the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program. For more information about ECA programs, visit here.


The five-week Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative for Student Leaders on Entrepreneurship and Economic Development provides university student leaders residing in the following countries: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Timor-Leste, and Vietnam; with a transformative learning experience that deepens their knowledge and understanding of the United States while equipping them with entrepreneurial skills and knowledge of economic development to create sustainable solutions to problems in their communities and country.

These programs are designed for participants to:

  • learn how to use business techniques and entrepreneurial skills to address global and local challenges within economic development
  • develop their leadership and collective problem-solving skills and learn how to creatively apply these skills
  • deepen their understanding of the United States by exploring the principles of democracy and fundamental American values such as individual rights, freedom of expression, pluralism and tolerance, and volunteerism.

Partnership with the University of Texas at Austin (Texas Global)

GTDI is pleased to partner with Texas Global at the University of Texas at Austin. Texas Global is a national leader in international education based on the successes of the programs delivered in the U.S. and abroad, and on the number of students and scholars supported: Texas Global serves over 7,000 international students and scholars and 1,000 ESL students, along with more than 4,000 students who participate in education abroad programs each year. In addition to student mobility, Texas Global directs and implements a broad range of grant-funded initiatives connecting international partners with on-campus collaborators. The Global Innovation Lab has a proven track record of conceptualizing and implementing programs for entrepreneurs in more than 44 countries, creating over 15,000 new jobs and generating over $1.5 billion in economic impact.

Each fall and spring, UConn and UTexas will host YSEALI cohorts at their respective campuses in Connecticut and Texas for the 4-week residency portion of the YSEALI program, during which the participants will work with their Academic Directors to develop their own project plans for social change.

Partnership with the University for Peace (UPeace)

upeaceGTDI is pleased to partner with the University for Peace (UPeace), Centre for Executive and Professional Education on this program. Through the partnership with UPeace, the program will offer a dynamic 9-week virtual learning environment in which students will learn about entrepreneurship, innovation, and social change while planning their social change projects. UPeace uses a transformational pedagogical approach to educate future change makers, offering innovative learning experiences that are dynamic and engaging while inspiring students to have a positive impact in our interconnected world.  Students will access the UPeace course prior to their arrival at UConn to begin working!

What is required of YSEALI participants?

Participants coming to UConn’s YSEALI program should have a strong interest in economic development and social entrepreneurship. During the program they will be expected to identify a social problem in their community or country, particularly one that they are passionate about solving, and develop a business plan for a social enterprise that will address an important aspect of it. After identifying the social problem during the first week at UConn, participants will turn to developing a mission statement, a marketing plan, a list of potential partners, a financial plan/budget, and lastly, a detailed explanation for scaling up their enterprise. During the final week of the UConn portion of the program, participants will be expected to put all aspects of their business plans into a unified document. Each participant will prepare and deliver a 10-minute presentation on their project venture idea to their peers and members of the UConn community. This activity provides an opportunity for participants to receive feedback and develop their public speaking skills.

Upon returning to their home countries participants will have a chance to update aspects of their business plans that require local knowledge. Approximately one month after leaving the U.S., they will have an opportunity to apply for up to $500 in project funding from GTDI to kick-start their social enterprise. Participants will receive feedback on their plans from the GTDI team, led by the Academic Director and instructors from UPeace. To address any critiques, participants will be given the chance to submit their plan a second time and then if their business plans meet the criteria, they will receive UConn funding. The UPeace online course and information learned at UConn will be available through the duration of the project development process. The Academic Director will work closely with participants in developing business plans for their social ventures during their time at UConn and upon their return to home countries.

YSEALI Program Materials

Program Administrators


This is a program of the U.S. Department of State, administered by the University of Connecticut.