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ECC focuses on internationalization

Iowans have bought in to the “Field of Dreams” concept that if you build it, they will come. At Ellsworth Community College in Iowa Falls, the staff is building recruitment plans and support systems to enhance efforts to recruit and retain an increased number of international students. Why? Because it’s a win-win for all those involved.

“ECC has a long history of international student enrollment dating back to the initial offering of a Petroleum Marketing & Management degree program back in 1966,” explains Dr. Nancy Muecke, ECC Provost. “We have welcomed student-athletes from Venezuela, Croatia, New Zealand, Poland, Turkey, Canada, Australia, Chile, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Slovenia. We’ve enrolled students from Russia, Sweden, Zambia, Ecuador, the Czech Republic and South Korea. With the addition of the Youth for Understanding (YFU) exchange program in 2011, we’ve also hosted students from Switzerland, France, Kazakhstan and China. These students will tell you that they feel strongly that they’ve received a valuable educational experience at Ellsworth, and we know they’ve added to the richness of our campus culture by sharing their diverse customs and experiences with us.”

Students at Ellsworth also benefit from the international diversity of faculty and staff members who hail from Germany, Romania, Slovakia, Sri Lanka and Venezuela.

This summer, ECC hired Roger Lugo for the newly-created position of Coordinator of International Relations. A native of Venezuela and 2007 ECC graduate, Lugo has been involved in several new recruitment initiatives:

  • creating Skype and online chat connections to make it easier to communicate with prospective international students and their families in “real time”
  • developing a recruitment video featuring current ECC international students talking about their experiences at Ellsworth; the video is on the College’s website here.
  • attending college fairs in the Midwest geared toward international students
  • connecting with Chinese residents in the U.S. and China to establish communications and connections

“I know from personal experience the challenges and rewards of being an international student at Ellsworth,” says Lugo. “I came here to play baseball and study art and graphic design, and it was a life-changing experience for me. I’m thrilled to be in a position now where I can advise and assist other international students as they consider their educational options in the U.S., especially Ellsworth Community College. We have some great things to offer here, as our international students are quick to talk about on the recruitment video we developed. I’m looking forward to being part of the College’s growth in this area.”

Mark Kelly of New Zealand enrolled at ECC because a friend from New Zealand played volleyball here and recommended it. “She put me in touch with the basketball coach and I enrolled,” says Kelly. “I’m studying Liberal Arts here for two years, and then I hope to transfer and continue my degree and play basketball at a four-year college in the U.S.. I find that ECC is a family-oriented school, and you definitely get hands-on help from the teachers. It’s a very welcoming place, and everyone’s just a phone call away. It’s like home for me now.”

The most recent development in ECC’s international recruitment efforts was the announcement of an endowed Todd Welden Memorial Scholarship to send deserving ECC students to Germany for work-study, formal classes, cultural exchange, or whatever educational opportunities might present themselves.

“Our four-year relationship, through ECC instructor Joerg Rochlitzer, with Dr. Peter Jahr was the impetus for this new scholarship offering,” explains Dr. Muecke. “Dr. Jahr is an elected member of the Parliament of Saxony, the German federal government, and the European Union. He has partnered with Mr. Rochlitzer and ECC for the past two years to bring students from the Saxony area of Germany to our College, and we’ve sent ECC students on eight-week internships to Germany for the past three years. Now, with this new endowed scholarship, we’ll be able to send our students to Germany under scholarship. It’s an exciting addition to the Ellsworth College Foundation scholarship portfolio, and it will be another key to the expansion of our internationalization efforts.”

Johannes Ben Kockert of Germany came to ECC this fall based on what he learned online about Dr. Peter Jahr and Ellsworth Community College. He also saw a video of German exchange student Rebecca Lonitz, which convinced him to check out Ellsworth.

“I could tell from the video that Rebecca was excited about Iowa Falls and ECC, so I applied online and decided last spring to come here,” says Kockert. “I find the people here are very helpful and connected to one another. The professors are accessible, which I like. I live on campus with a roommate from Ackley, and I’m involved in the music program. I plan to study here one year to improve my English, then will go back to Germany and study at the university there.”

Kockert says Ellsworth has been different than what he expected, but better. “I would tell other international students not to be afraid because you can improve your language skills here and it’s very comfortable. It’s a good way to experience a new culture.”

Jakub Hladik from the Czech Republic attended AGWSR High School his senior year through the International Student Exchange (ISE) program. When an ECC recruiter came to AGWSR, he became interested in ECC and decided to enroll.

“I have attended ECC for two years and will graduate in May with a degree in engineering,” says Hladik. “I plan to transfer to UNI to complete a physics degree, then transfer elsewhere for advanced degrees. Ultimately, I’d like to work in the aerospace industry.”

Hladik says that one of the best things about ECC is that everyone knows everyone. “This is a small campus and Iowa Falls is a small town, but everyone is so nice! The interaction with professors is great … you can even become friends with them. My friends at larger schools say that’s not possible where they’re attending. I would tell other international students that smaller is definitely better. Ellsworth has been a great place for me.”

PHOTO: ECC students Jakub Hladik of the Czech Republic and Johannes Ben Kockert of Germany are active in the ECC Music Department, among other things. They performed an acoustic guitar duet at this year’s Christmas Cabaret.

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