I have genuine joy in addressing international educators, as I consider myself to be an international educator, although, this change did not occur until late in my adult life. I spent my childhood in Sweetwater, Texas, a small town of 10,000, where until I graduated from high school, I had only traveled to two neighboring states: New Mexico and Arkansas. In my youth, I did not see beyond my local boundaries, but have come to understand the vast importance of our interconnected world as an adult.
Today, I have traveled to 35 different countries on 6 continents. In addition to traveling, I also linked educational learning to my abroad experiences. I was a Professor in the Semester Abroad Program in Heidelberg, Germany offered by Pepperdine University, I participated in two six-week study tours sponsored by the University of Southern California in Nigeria and China; and three of my children studied abroad as part of their college education. I have come to fully embrace international education for not only my own life, but for those of my children.
Through my travels, my studies and my connections, I have learned about the commonality of humanity. I have seen the sheer beauty of our big wide world including architectural wonders of the Pyramids, the Great Wall, and the Parthenon, and I have marveled at environmental wonders of the LI River in China, the fjords in New Zealand and the Rhine Falls. I could learn about these in books, but the images I have seen along my path burn brightly. It is the first-hand experience that added dimension to my life including the woman carrying her baby in the bazaar in Nigeria; the peasant family who gave me a dinner in China; and all the personal rich contacts I made throughout my travels in New Zealand, Spain, and Honduras. Through my international experiences, I fully understand the interdependence of our world and how it is linked to all educational experiences. I can embrace it for our community colleges as I know personally the benefits that international education can provide for all our students.
TIME OF ECONOMIC CRISIS
We are all aware of the current economic crisis. While times are good for community colleges in terms of surging enrollments and the Obama administration embracing community colleges through their Under-Secretary of Education Nominee, Martha Kantor, we cannot overlook the bad news. In California, unemployment is at 11%, more workers need to attend the community college to gain new skills and to avoid unemployment, and yet our colleges are unable to handle the overflow.
The impact on community colleges is staggering. There is a $ 145 Billion shortfall in state government, of which $ 23 Billion is in California. California faces a $ 581 million cut plus a $ 100 million property tax shortfall (10%) cut. The results are devastating. The reduction of schedules, layoff of part-time staff and faculty, no replacements of reassignment or retirements, reduction of student services such as counseling, tutoring, all of which will affect at-risk students the most. While this is our reality, it serves us well to remember Raul Emanuel word’s “a crisis is a terrible thing to waste.” In our times of crisis, we cannot discard those programs that are so meaningful to the community college, such as International Education. Since International Education relates so strongly to our global economy, and because much of what we do is not expensive, this embracing simply requires a mind-shift for taking words into action.
INTERNATIONAL EDUCATION IN CALIFORNIA COMMUNITY COLLEGES
There are four specific international education programs that I will discuss. Much of my knowledge comes from my experiences as President at Pasadena College with current examples drawn from the non-profit consortium, California Colleges for International Education (CCIE), which since 1985 has served as the primary voice of international education for the Chancellor’s Office, and is instrumental in bringing the Chancellor’s Office Global Education programs to scale system wide.
Education Abroad Programs. Advantages include personal and academic growth. When the marquee at Pasadena City College announced the Oxford Semester Program, Shakespeare Summer, or Mexico field trips, it also announced that here at a community college, students can gain opportunities once limited to universities and the elite. In fact, California community colleges send more non-traditional students, lower-income students and students of color abroad than any post-secondary institution in the country as more federal funds are available to help non-traditional students. Education abroad is good for public relations. It is good for the students. It is good for the entire college community. These programs do not cost the college money as the tuition and program fees are picked up by the students. There should be an increase in California community college students studying abroad.
International Students to Your Campus. Advantages include an economic benefit to your college through increased tuition, an economic benefit to your local community through increases tax revenues, and an enrichment to your entire student body. The 22,921 International Students who attend California Community colleges, contribute $ 1.8 Billion to the local economy through their living expenses and an additional $ 1.4 Billion that goes directly to the colleges in the form of tuition and fees. The range of international students varies from a low of just a few students to 3,124 at Santa Monica City College which ranks 2nd in the nation, 2,394 at DeAnza college which ranks 3rd in the country and 1,207 at Diablo Valley which ranks 9th in the country. Recruitment, however, must directly correlate with the support services given to these students. The end goal is to inspire our own domestic students with first-hand knowledge of others in the world and to bring academic excellent to all students.
Professional Development of Faculty and Staff. First-hand experiential learning is not just for students. Faculty and staff enhance their professional knowledge, and ability to teach when they engage in professional development abroad. While there are limited faculty and staff exchange programs, and even more limited sabbaticals, these cannot be under-estimated in future college planning. There are a range of educational opportunities designed for faculty and staff to do on-going research, learn first-hand, and to see the world.
Incorporate Global Economy into the Curriculum. All academic, technical, occupational, and vocational college courses need to present updated and accurate information - which is incomplete without infusing cross-cultural concepts, theories and patterns of interrelationships into class content and academic programs. No discipline is so provincial that it cannot be viewed from an international perspective. Nursing programs need to address health issues that arise from migration and trans-national disease. Business and engineering courses are weak without cultural context and international environmental impacts. Some California community college faculty internationalize elements of single courses, while other colleges offer international Certificate and Degree programs. Last year, Santa Monica College mandated international literacy as a requirement for graduation. This internationalization takes advantage of the vast diversity of our student body. Many of our colleges serve immigrant populations that are not seen in other parts of the country. Making college relevant for their needs and interests costs only the time involved for re-learning and re-imagining curriculum.
International Education is an idea whose time has come. The California State Chancellor’s office has long supported International Education as depicted by the 1999 California Global Task Force’s Vision to support Learners engaging in developing an awareness of and shared accountability for international and global competencies, at home and abroad, preparing them for full participation in our increasingly multicultural communities. The California Education Code Sec. 66010.4.3 also notes that “a primary mission of the California Community College is to advance California’s economic growth and global competencies through education, training, and services.”
International Education is a recognized investment in the future ability of the student to interact in our multicultural world and assists them as they transfer to a four-year institution or as they proceed into the workplace environment. While our economic crisis is our reality, we still must prepare our students to be internationally competent citizens. International Education is an area that I fully support.