Durham Tech’s reach covers the globe

Durham Tech is a community college with a global focus. Our reach extends far beyond the borders of Durham and Orange counties as we connect with students and citizens from and issues of entirely different countries. I recently was reminded of this fact when, earlier this month, Durham Tech hosted students from Japan while sending students and faculty to Ireland for a study abroad trip.

Nineteen Japanese students came to Durham and Durham Tech late February through a long-standing partnership with the Sister Cities of Durham. The students study at the Toyama College of Languages in Durham’s Sister City, Toyama, and enrolled in Durham Tech’s English language immersion program for more than two weeks. This arrangement of Durham Tech and its Center for the Global Learner hosting these students started in 2013, though the relationship between Durham Tech and Toyama has existed for much longer. Since 2013, we have welcomed delegations of between 15 and 25 Toyama students into the English language immersion program while introducing them to the American culture. The students stay with host families in the Durham community who take them to local and regional art and history museums, give them the rundown on about college basketball rivalries, and more.

While these students were learning about our culture, we sent 17 students and faculty to Dublin, Ireland, to study the Irish culture, more specifically its health care system, during our one-week spring break. They visit various health facilities and met with health experts in addition to learning about the country’s culture and history and exploring Dublin.   

The study abroad trip to Ireland is just the latest international expedition Durham Tech has offered our students. Our study abroad opportunities began in 2011 when we sent a group of students to the Dominican Republic. That study-abroad initiative has resulted in a relationship with a group of Dominican mural artists which, in turn, led to a Durham Tech graduate’s proposal to create a mural wall at the new headquarters of the Durham Police Department. Since that first program, Durham Tech has also provided study abroad opportunities to Nicaragua, Liberia, and Cuba.

While the Toyama partnership and study abroad programs are student-centric, our faculty and staff also contribute to and benefit from our global focus.

Durham Tech has maintained a long and robust partnership with World View, an UNC-Chapel Hill program that provides K-12 and community college educators with resources to globalize their curricula and expose their students to the international world. In February, the director of our Paralegal Technologies program, Precious Vines,was featured in World View’s Educator Spotlight. You can view the feature at https://worldview.unc.edu/in-the-spotlight/precious-l-vines/.   

Two of our faculty members in the Arts, Sciences, and University Transfer department have received financial support from two partner universities to bring an international perspective to their classrooms. Dr. Steve Kerrigan, Chair of Humanities and Social Science, received a grant from the Duke University Middle East Studies Center to enhance our art history courses, while Jonathan Cook, Coordinator of English, received support from the Carolina Asia Center at UNC to explore plagiarism issues within Asian cultures.

We at Durham Tech don’t even have to go to another country or work with another organization or institution to find diversity. It lives right here at our college and within our community.

Students from more than 100 different nations are enrolled at Durham Tech, studying everything from English as a second language to engineering. This past fall, more than 600 of the 5500 students enrolled in credit programs were international students, and nearly 1700 individuals annually enroll in ESL classes. We are truly a global community college.

We like to believe that our emphasis on global issues is so strong that it impacts students well after they leave Durham Tech. Even if our graduates never leave North Carolina, they still will continue to cross international interactions. Consider our students who go on to be nurses at Duke or UNC hospital. Over the course of their careers, they will encounter patients from all different cultures with their own expectations of what is personal space, modesty, degree of family involvement in personal decisions, and a host of other factors that will influence the nurse’s ability to provide safe and effective care. 

And sometimes, our global focus guides the trajectory of a student’s life. This week, Will Arrington, a Durham Tech alum who subsequently transferred to and graduated from UNC, left for a two-year stint to teach English in Armenia through the Peace Corps. Will’s first international experience (indeed, his first flight in an airplane) was because of Durham Tech. It was his experience with the 2015 trip to Havana, Cuba, that led him to join the Peace Corps and embark on this new adventure. You can read more about Will’s story here: durhamtech.edu/news/durham-tech-graduate-joins-peace-corps-headed-armenia.