By DANYELLE KHMARA
Global education is an increasing priority at Pima Community College, and Ricardo Castro-Salazar is heading the effort.
Castro-Salazar is hard at work as vice president for international development for the college. It’s a new position, which Chancellor Lee Lambert says will be instrumental in the effort to strengthen global education at PCC.
“Global learning will promote economic development, expand our understanding of cultures and languages, encourage inclusiveness and diversity, and strengthen our community and nation,” Castro-Salazar wrote in an article for the Arizona Daily Star.
Castro-Salazar says that internationalization means educating our community in terms of why global perspective and global education are so important.
There are different dimensions to internationalization, and one of those dimensions is international student recruitment.
Recruiting international students is something that PCC has done for a number of years. Castro-Salazar says that arena has become a bit neglected though, and it is time to revive those efforts.
Another dimension of what he and other administrators plan to do is to develop opportunities for the international professional development of faculty members, staff and administrators.
Castro-Salazar is working with The Fulbright Program, a government-funded program that promotes international understanding and the exchange of faculty members and students.
“We also want to develop relationships with institutions throughout the world,” Castro-Salazar says.
Pima has many faculty members who are well connected throughout the world.
“We want to use their talents. We want to use their expertise so that Pima can have them as ambassadors,” Castro-Salazar says.
He recognizes that not all community college students or community members can go abroad.
“How do we bring that world to them?” he asks. “Well, through the exchange of cultural knowledge and all this very rich understanding that international students and international scholars bring to us.”
International students can offer a genuine perspective on life in other countries.
“There’s no substitute for that,” Castro-Salazar says. “When you have a person sitting right there in front of you, and he or she is telling you their perspective, why they feel that way and why things are a certain way in the culture they come from—that right there is global understanding and global communication in our classrooms.”
Castro-Salazar will work to infuse classrooms and extracurricular activities with a global perspective. He says PCC will move toward internationalizing the curricula.
“We want to make it into a sustainable, long-term plan that is infused in a great majority of our courses,” he says.
As an example, he says it is important to put American history into a global context—the context of the world at that point in time.
“All knowledge is the accumulated knowledge of many generations and sometimes many different cultures that came together throughout time,” he says.
Some people are opposed to internationalization. Castro-Salazar says their perspective may be a misunderstanding of what internationalization means.
“It is something that we have to respect,” he says of opposing views. “We have to look at their positions and their perspectives and explain to them that what we are doing is actually in the best interest of the community.”
The college’s responsibility is towards the community, but Castro-Salazar says the concept of community is changing.
“Communities today are very international,” he says. “They depend greatly on external factors. Here in Tucson we are a very international community.”
He says that we have various types of relationships with many countries, and we should focus on the educational component of those relationships.
“Any challenge, any problem, any solution that you look for will most likely involve an educational component,” Castro-Salazar says. “Education is the key to a lot of solutions and a lot of understanding.”
There is also economic benefit from internationalizing PCC.
In the article he wrote for the Arizona Daily Star, Castro-Salazar says that international students contributed $27 billion to the U.S. economy and supported 340,000 American jobs during this academic year.
Also, the international students support programs and services for all students by paying out-of-state tuition.
Long-term economic benefits may also come from international students who return home with a positive opinion of their host country, aiding in good relations for future trade, development, tourism and investment.
Lambert also sees the financial benefit of recruiting more international students, but says that is not the major reason he supports the initiative.
“It’s not about the money,” he says. “Do the right thing, and the money follows.”
A December article in The Arizona Daily Star said, “A widely-traveled Pima Community College instructor will launch the school’s new push to solicit students from China and around the globe.”
Castro-Salazar explains that while China is the country that is sending the most international students to the United States, there are many others that are important too, like South Korea, India, Saudi Arabia and Brazil, to name a few.
“They are also very important players in the international arena,” he says.
He explains that China may have been the country mentioned in the Arizona Daily Star article because the chancellor was invited there.
“We have the fortune of having a chancellor who is highly internationalized and understands the value of global education,” Castro-Salazar says. “He obviously had connections in China already, so of course we are going to develop that relationship. It’s a very important relationship, but it’s not the only relationship.”
Castro-Salazar also played an instrumental role in bringing 49 Mexican students to PCC last semester with the SEP-Bécalos-Santander Universidades program, through the 100,000 Strong in the Americas initiative.
“We want to promote understanding between Mexico and the United States,” he says.
The focus between the United States and Mexico is often on trade, immigration and security.
“What we want is a new focus, on a very important dimension—education,” he says. “In order to resolve these other three dimensions, we need education to start with.”
PCC is hoping to bring 60 more students from Mexico in the fall.
Lambert says that Castro-Salazar’s education and experience make him ideally suited for the challenge of strengthening global education.
Castro-Salazar says that through living in other countries we can come to see that our understanding of the world is very limited sometimes.
“You become very humble,” he says.
Castro-Salazar says he thinks everybody should be able to have cultural exposure.
“We need to get used to the idea that we cannot survive by ourselves,” he says. “We are not alone in this world. We need to know what other people in this planet are about, and we need to understand their customs, their beliefs. We need to understand and accept those things.”