A recent trip to the United Arab Emirates may be the first step in attracting international students to Columbia Basin College.
Students experiencing people from other countries are going to be able to compete better, college President Rich Cummins said.
“I want to (attract students from around the world) for a couple of different reasons,” he said. “One is that our students, even those in Pasco ... are really subject to global pressures and need to understand global contexts. And the more that we’re able to have our students interact with the wider world, the more able and capable they’ll be when they graduate from us and head into the world.”
The college president recently went to the Middle Eastern nation in hopes of attracting students and developing avenues for faculty improvement.
Sen. Sharon Brown, R-Kennewick, asked the college president to join the trade delegation as a way of demonstrating the diverse types of expertise in the Tri-Cities.
The trip was Brown’s second in about a year.
“I had the opportunity to talk with the ambassadors about the expertise that we have in the Tri-Cities in regard to nuclear energy,” she said.
After returning, she received a call asking her to attend Discover America Week.
“I recognized the role we play in the global economy,” Brown said. “The programs that Dr. Cummins has put together address the needs (they have).”
The college offers a program to teach people about operating nuclear power plants. The nuclear technology program trains people to be plant operators, instrument and control and radiation protection technicians.
“The United Arab Emirates is online to develop as many as eight nuclear plants over the next 10 to 20 years,” Cummins said. “They will obviously need a trained workforce, and I want to discover ... if (the college) can help with those efforts.”
Brown also wanted to show the college’s cybersecurity program to United Arab Emirates’ representatives, she said.
Along with representatives from across the state, Brown and Cummins traveled with representatives from three businesses in the Tri-Cities to spur investment in both countries.
“They need to invest somewhere,” she said. “I would like to have them invest in the state of Washington. We have the best programs here. ... To lose that to another state would be a crying shame.”
The delegation worked roughly 16-hour days to fit as many meetings in as possible, Brown said.
“We really wanted to maximize our opportunities,” she said. “The UAE is our fifth largest trading partner.”
Along with providing training to people in other countries, Cummins said the students provide the college with another source of revenue. Money from the state for community colleges is dwindling.
Cummins said he felt the trip — his first trade mission outside of the country — was productive.
“It’s like any kind of business development,” he said. “It’s luck and sweat and investment. ... I plan to invest in international education and building an international education program over the next five (to) eight years.”
As the college looks at creating an international program, Cummins said he would likely hire someone to travel to work on building the relationships and recruit students.
The college has four students from outside of the country, and Cummins wants to see the number grow.
“This is development that is slow in the making,” he said. “In five years, I would be happy if we had our initial 50 (to) 75 students.”
The college wouldn’t be the first community college in the state to have an international program. Green River Community College has a successful program to draw students to the United States.