Central Lakes College has initiated an educational relationship with at least five schools in Thailand that could result in agreements for exchanges among students and instructors.
A foundation was laid during a two-week visit to Thailand by a delegation of seven from CLC. Led by President Larry Lundblad, the group included instructors Sharon Fodness, Kari Frisch, Michael Hopps, Martha Kuehn, Jackie Lindquist, and Jeff Wig.
The group returned with the names of dozens of educational contacts in Thailand and a commitment toward establishing exchanges suited to high school and college students as well as faculty.
The vision includes possible expansion of online course offerings from CLC, service learning opportunities for CLC students as tutors of English to Thai students and the possibility of area hospitality internships for Thai students.
The Central Lakes College delegation to Thailand included Martha Kuehn (left), Michael Hopps, Kari Frisch, Jackie Lindquist, Larry Lundblad, Sharon Fodness, and Jeff Wig.
"They are eager to set up exchange programs and treated us with such gracious hospitality that we feel there could be benefits for all," Lundblad said. Thai students who wish to continue their studies in the United States at CLC will be recruited.
"We're in a global economy," Lundblad said. "And certainly, a lot of emphasis from many leaders, including Governor Pawlenty, is on building relationships with the large economies in Asia."
Cultural awareness of Thailand is a benefit already finding its way into classrooms at CLC. In recent years, with several Thai students at CLC presenting formal and informal programs on campus and in the community, faculty and students have gained an appreciation for Southeast Asian and its people.
"Learning about the global economy is critical for today's business graduates," Wig said. "Having international students share their perspectives in our classes really brings the subject of global business alive. We have many companies right here in the Brainerd Lakes who export much of their product overseas, and we want our students to be ready for jobs with those employers."
Because of their rapid economic development, Thailand and other Southeast Asian countries are looking for ways to connect with American colleges. Last fall, a group of Thai elementary and secondary educators visited the Brainerd area, researching the prospects for future exchanges.
The CLC group in Thailand visited those Thai educators from Chiang Mai in the northwest region.
Central Lakes College President Larry Lundblad shared a laugh with a Thai machining student at one of the five schools the community and technical college delegation visited.
The Brainerd lakes area, with its many resorts and emphasis on tourism, is viewed as a prime beneficiary of prospective exchanges that lead to education-related internships for Thai students who are studying in programs such as hotel management and culinary arts.
To that end, conversations may include St. Cloud State University, with its degree program in hospitality management, as well as other institutions in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system with associated programs. CLC could be a conduit for the Thai students pursuing the higher degree.
CLC students who were willing to travel and assist Thai students with English might do so during the offseason for lower airfares than the approximately $1,500 each CLC representative paid. Once there, most everything would be fairly inexpensive for Americans.
Until specifics are in place, CLC is prepared to make its online curriculum available to Thai students.
"Already we have one student from Thailand this spring who is taking three online courses from us," said Lindquist, a math instructor.
Lindquist and the other five instructors received Award of Excellence grants from the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system. They also used faculty development and personal funds to finance the trip.
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