An international program for the 21st century

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The 49 college students from Mexico attending Pima Community College this semester are doing more than working on their English skills and taking classes in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics disciplines. They are part of a culture-spanning initiative that is truly hemispheric in scope.

Last week at West Campus, I had the pleasure of taking part in a welcome-to-Pima for the 50 students. They are here thanks to the support of the SEP-Bécalos-Santander Universidades International Program, in collaboration with Fundación Televisa (a large Mexican foundation). The Bécalos program is part of the U.S. 100,000 Strong for the Americas Global Initiative and its Mexican counterpart, Proyecta 100,000, as well as the U.S.-Mexico Bi-national Forum on Higher Education, Innovation and Research.

In total, the initiative’s reach extends from Canada to South America, making PCC’s guest students the vanguard of a huge international awareness project that aligns with our strategic goals of enhancing global education at PCC. Having grown up on three continents, I know that living or studying broad profoundly changes your perception of the world. The Bécalos students will emerge with new perspective on the world. So will the students they engage with at PCC, especially the Pima PEERS – Positive Engaging Educational Resource Support. These students are easing the transition to PCC for our guests, many of whom had never been to the U.S. before.

Many people and groups have contributed to the program’s successful launch: West Campus President Dr. Lou Albert, Executive Assistant Geneva Escobedo and Enrollment Program Manager Craig Winters, the International Student Services Office, Student Life Coordinator Jennifer Wellborn, Bécalos Program Coordinator Yvonne Perez, Student Services Advanced Specialist Rose Bolz and Advanced Program Manager Dr. Daisy Rodriguez Pitel, who is putting together the programs numerous pieces. Also, I want to acknowledge Dr. Ricardo Castro-Salazar of Northwest Campus, who was instrumental in making the project become a reality, and Maggie Suárez of Fundación Televisa.

And as always, an effort of this breadth couldn’t be achieved without our community partners. The students’ out-of-classroom education will be substantial, thanks to the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. The THCC, led by President Lea Marquez Peterson, will provide job shadowing and mentoring opportunities from a variety of businesses in the research and manufacturing sectors, and will provide help with language skills. Felipe Garcia of Visit Tucson notes that the program is a prime opportunity for our diverse city to make a favorable impression on the students and influence future visitors from Mexico.

Mexican Consul Ricardo Pineda Albarran put it well when he described the Arizona-Sonora relationship as one of the richest in the world, not just in terms of the billions of dollars in trade and investment between the two regions, but in growing opportunities for cultural and educational enrichment. “We live in a global era,” he said. In the 21st century, being a responsible citizen means thinking not only about the folks next door, but also about your neighbors around the world. Programs such as Bécalos send a strong message that PCC is rebuilding its international presence, and all of the students involved can be proud of being part of a project with global impact.

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