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Technical college students prepare for global economy

Wisconsin's technical colleges are expanding opportunities for international education to support a growing number of Wisconsin companies doing business worldwide. As companies expand operations and distribute products globally, they are looking for more graduates with international competencies.

According to local industry representatives, graduates of any business program should demonstrate the following international competencies: Political and legal affairs, language and communication, intercultural communication, economics and trade, geography, current events and study or travel abroad.

However, the vision for international education goes farther than just business programs. Technical college staff are researching curriculum mapping of international education content in all departments of the colleges.

"Colleges are making a wide variety of offerings available, from on-campus events, study abroad opportunities, bringing in international students to our campuses and student exchanges," says Kelly Holtmeier, chair of the Wisconsin Technical College System's International Education Committee.

Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College has a thriving exchange program with the Julius Leber Schule in Frankfurt, Germany. As part of WITC's 2009-12 strategic planning, the college has implemented initiatives that facilitate student exposure to international experiences and cultures through a new partnership with the Wisconsin in Scotland program.

As part of that effort, WITC communications instructor Tim McRaith is currently serving a term as an instructor for the University of Wisconsin system's Wisconsin in Scotland program and is exploring how faculty and students can benefit from this opportunity in the future.

"Instructors bring global views into their classrooms through their own travel experiences and those of their students, media reports and other print resources, as well as through practical applications or projects which encourage students to research other parts of the world," Holtmeier continued.

In the fall of 2010, six students and an instructor from the Julius Leber Schule in Frankfurt, Germany, visited WITC's Rice Lake campus, while five students and two instructors were at the New Richmond campus.

"The visit was well received," says Frank Braswell, WITC academic dean of business. "The exchange students and faculty spent 14 days in combined WITC and community events. The students adjusted well to the rural communities and enjoyed the hospitality of the Wisconsin residents. There was overwhelming consensus on how kind the American citizens are."

While visiting, the German students participated in several community events ranging from business and industry, health, government and foundation fundraising events.

Following the success of the Cultural Exchange Program and its ability to show students a world view as they prepare for their careers, hopes are high that the opportunity continues for WITC students.

"I think this is an important program that should be continued and grow," says Mary Ann Pebler, WITC divisional dean of allied health. "The world is much 'smaller' these days due to the inter-connectedness via the Internet -- especially for our younger students. Sharing cultural ideas and perspectives is a positive thing to do in the more global economy."

The U.S. Department of Education uses International Education Week (Nov. 14-18) to celebrate the benefits of international education and exchange. Wisconsin's technical colleges are preparing students for a global future through many international education opportunities. Graduates will be ready for the international business world through greater exposure to people, ideas and cultures from around the world. International education prepares U.S. citizens to live, work and compete in the global economy.

Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College serves the educational and career needs of more than 25,000 residents of northwestern Wisconsin each year. With multiple campuses, WITC offers career-focused associate degree programs, technical diplomas, short-term certificates, customized training and a wide array of courses for personal or career enrichment.