Creating a Global Community From a Local Community
October 2013, Volume 26, Number 10
By Encarni Trueba, Bunmi Babarinde-Hall, and Tara Ebersole
The Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC) embarked on its journey into global education just over four years ago. The goal was to change the world—or at least how its students viewed the world. During this time period, the initiative has gained momentum and has resulted in the establishment of a number of programs and projects geared toward improving and increasing global knowledge and perspectives, as well as intercultural competencies for all members of the CCBC community. While the unprecedented growth of the program has been supported by a large group of passionate colleagues, challenges with funding have been ever present. Those involved with the initiative have had to rely on ingenuity and hard work to find appropriate resources. One possible solution was to look beyond the college’s own borders into the surrounding community. Community Outreach, one subcommittee of the overarching Global Education Advisory Board, did just that, and in doing so discovered local ethnic groups willing to share a wealth of knowledge, skills, and competencies with the college.
The attempt to connect with the local international community began with research and the gathering of contact information. The Baltimore metropolitan area is rich with ethnic and international community groups. As contact information was gathered, a database of the information collected was created. The database of these local, yet international, groups was actually updated from an older version created in the 1980’s that included a list of international and immigrant groups in the Baltimore area. These groups were organized as communities aiming to preserve their heritage. Some of them were comprised of second or third generation immigrant residents who have successfully worked to conserve the pride of their heritage and legacy, and have continued to hold on to their traditions as they were passed down from previous generations.
The Baltimore area has, historically, played a very important role in immigration. During the period between 1821 and 1914, Baltimore was the third largest port of entry in the U.S., with 1.5 million immigrants (The Baltimore Immigration Memorial Foundation, 2013). During the 1980s, international immigration accounted for 17.5 percent of the total population gain in the region; that number increased to 37.1 percent during the 1990s, and to over 50 percent by 2008 (Baltimore Metropolitan Council, 2013). In the near future, the majority of the Baltimore area’s population is expected to be from international immigration. Because of this major influx of immigrants into Baltimore, there exists a major source of cultural diversity for the Community Outreach subcommittee to tap into.
The initial database from the 1980s, though outdated, served as a solid starting point, though it naturally lacked essential email contact information and website links. As the newly updated database was created, the contact information was shared with the entire college community through SharePoint, the college’s information sharing and collaboration site. The database is an active document meant to expand as more contacts are made with international and ethnic communities in the area.
The local ethnic groups were eager to further enrich their own communities with their heritage. Consequently, they embraced the opportunity to share their culture and traditions with CCBC. They were open to contributing to and highlighting the meaning of the word community in the community college. The intent of the Community Outreach subcommittee, therefore, was to foster these connections and fully immerse the college into its surrounding community—in other words, to go global locally.
The International Education Week (IEW) of 2012 provided the perfect opportunity to solidify these prolific connections. IEW is a joint initiative of the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education to celebrate the benefits of international education and exchange worldwide. Many colleges and universities, as well as elementary, middle, and high schools, have been celebrating IEW since its inception in the year 2000. Although CCBC had been celebrating IEW for many years, the small subcommittee of just five members wanted to ensure that the week reached and impacted more students than ever by implementing their ambitious ideas with multiple community connections. Therefore, IEW became the ideal time to optimize the gifts from our local communities.
Funding is a chronic challenge at community colleges, and CCBC is no exception. Fortunately, the subcommittee needed only small sums of money for the type of events it had planned for the 2012 IEW. Since the connections made with the local international groups were not professional, there was no need to offer them a salary for their performances or cultural sharing. However, for professional reasons, it was decided to try to cover the costs of the invited guests’ basic expenses such as transportation or the cost of the food samples they were willing to prepare and share. The subcommittee decided then to ask for an in-house mini-grant, the President's Innovation Grant. This grant is open to all CCBC employees for innovative practices. It was the general consensus of the subcommittee that invigorating IEW 2012 through outreach efforts was innovative, and this opinion was substantiated when the grant was approved.
The Community Outreach subcommittee, now equipped with the necessary grant money and many connections, was still faced with new unforeseen challenges of scheduling and planning many of the IEW events in an attempt to create an exemplary and productive week for CCBC’s three campuses. Dance performances, demonstrations, lectures, and food flooded the three campuses for an entire week. From an Ethiopian coffee ceremony to Ojczyzna Polish Dancers to food samples from Ukraine and Italy, among others, CCBC lived and breathed an intercultural atmosphere that week!
The response was extraordinary, not only from students but from faculty and staff as well. There were also guests—visitors from the community—who had never been to CCBC before. Some professors took their entire classes to certain events, tying the intercultural events to their learning objectives. For example, one economics class on CCBC’s Essex campus attended the Ethiopian coffee ceremony and followed the event with a pertinent lecture. In the lecture, the origin of coffee beans led to a debate about trademark and company profits. Everyone truly enjoyed the authentic homemade ethnic food. Ethiopian injera, Italian pizzeli cookies, and Ukrainian pierogies not only satiated the stomachs of the attendees but opened their minds as well. The questionnaire distributed to the attendees reflected the need for these types of events at CCBC. Everyone, including students, faculty, and staff, as well as local guests, defined CCBC as a welcoming center for the local community. Attendees indicated that they were looking forward to more events of this nature in which the community is truly a part of the college.
Infused with international aromas during International Education Week 2012, CCBC was truly immersed in the local international community, and the local international community was immersed in CCBC. As part of the college’s strategic plan, CCBC earned the support and respect of the neighboring communities by going global locally and by providing some essential tools to think globally. Perhaps the appropriate word to capture this process is transformation. The Global Education Advisory Board’s Community Outreach subcommittee fostered the launch of this transformation process, and is now in a position to further nurture these very valuable local-ethnic connections. CCBC was not only a good neighbor; it was also a provider of beneficial learning experiences. Involving local international communities and groups as partners is part of the mission of the CCBC global education initiative, and the work of the Community Outreach committee is embracing the possibilities.
Baltimore Metropolitan Council. (2013). Demographic changes & economic development. Retrieved from http://www.baltometro.org/downloadables/imagine2060/TopicPaper_Demographics.pdf
The Baltimore Immigration Memorial Foundation. (2013). Summary of findings from preliminary research of Baltimore immigration history. Retrieved from www.immigrationbaltimore.org/quick_facts.htm
Encarni Trueba, Associate Professor of Biology and Coordinator of Global Initiatives; Bunmi Babarinde-Hall, Administrator, Digital and Emerging Technologies; Tara Ebersole, Professor of Biology and STEM Liaison, The Community College of Baltimore County, MD
Opinions expressed in Leadership Abstracts are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of the League for Innovation in the Community College.