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A&M-Commerce turns attention abroad

By Adam Troxtell
On February 16, 2011

Texas A&M University-Commerce is increasing the amount of international contacts they have with universities, embassies, and other global programs with each passing semester as part of a globalization trend.

This process is being facilitated by Global Initiatives, a department that specializes in creating avenues for the university to advertise for potential students and faculty or allow their own students and faculty to experience different cultures. Dr. Kenneth Clinton is the Associate Vice President for Global Initiatives, and he said the increase in the amount of international students and their influence on campus has been evident for quite some time.

"We had a major influx this last year of students from other countries," Clinton said. "We were one of the first schools in the state of Texas to have a degree in computer science. We were ahead of the curve. We've had an influx of students for many years from India, and that's the largest population [of international students] we have on campus and have always had for as long as I can remember."

Clinton said after this initial increase, those same students tell their friends or family living in their countries of origin about A&M-Commerce. This, plus work done by the Enrollment and Retention Division, which is led by Dean Stephanie Holley, has produced the recent influx of students from Nepal, Saudi Arabia, and China.

"It's the result, I think, of Stephanie Holley and her shop working the community colleges, so we get all of those transfers coming in," Clinton said. "It's the word of mouth. And economically, we're still a good buy."

Another way A&M-Commerce attracts international students is by having their own faculty and students visit new or established contacts around the globe.

"Dr. [Larry] Lemanski went to India and made contact with a number of universities there in terms of creating a relationship; either exchanging faculty or recruiting students to come here, or vice versa," Clinton said. "Dr. [Dan] Jones has done the same thing in China and in Morocco. We have a relationship with some universities there."

Clinton also said there is a specific reason China should be considered a hotbed for international recruitment in the next few years.

"They've gone from one million college students 15 years ago to 10 million," he said. "They have a rising middle class where parents have money. They have a desire to come to this country to study, and I hear that from the Chinese over and over again. We have a course where our business professors go every year to Beijing to the Geo Science University and do lectures. The Chinese students come in to hear those lectures, because they want to know."

Clinton himself will be traveling to South Korea in the future and visiting Konkuk University in the capital, Seoul. The plan is to set up a program where Korean students learning there become a part of a Global Frontier Program, in which they spend their freshman year at Konkuk before having the option of studying at A&M-Commerce.

With the university's international ties increasing year after year, Clinton said he hopes American students will get the most out of this exchange of cultures and ideas.

"The maximum benefit should be for our students here, and I'm not sure it is," he said. "It should be where you have the multiple conversations between students from India, China, and Saudi Arabia. You have a sense of the world that goes beyond National Geographic. I think Americans are very ethnocentric."

Clinton said the entire process is about building a solid relationship with these international contacts and engaging in dialogue for years to come. Vice President for Student Access and Success Dr. Mary Hendrix said she believes this is becoming a more important process in today's global climate.

"Now, more than ever, international education is needed to build understanding and collaboration between and among nations," Hendrix said. "There is increasing evidence that our graduates will be competing in an international labor market and that they must be able to function in a global economy. Education is about being exposed to diverse perspectives, but also learning that we are very similar."


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