Following this year’s theme, “Global Exchange: Crisis & Opportunity,” speakers focused on topics ranging from terrorism and epidemic diseases to social media in the classroom and study abroad programs. LSC-University Park hosted the conference for the first time this year.
“The International Education Conference opens our students’ eyes to the importance of being a global citizen,” LSC-University Park President Shah Ardalan said. “This exchange of ideas is great for our students, it’s beneficial for our faculty, it’s necessary for our state and community.”
Two international keynote speakers discussed their personal journeys to careers in which they have had global influence. Sada Cumber, who served as the first U.S. Ambassador to the Organization of the Islamic Conference, came from a fishing village in Pakistan and ultimately became responsible for engaging Muslim communities and countries around the world. He said his career highlights included negotiating a cease-fire between Israel and Lebanon and negotiating the first memorandum of understanding with Iran in 2008. Cumber now serves as senior adviser to the Director of National Intelligence and consultant to international leaders.
“These are some of the most sensitive issues,” he said. “Our government trusted someone who was born in Karachi, Pakistan, and got his citizenship in the late ‘80s and ‘90s, to go and get things done.”
Alexander Tzang, special adviser for the China-U.S. Exchange Foundation, explained the Chinese Dream is the same as the American Dream, only decades behind. The Chinese people, many of whom live in poverty, are looking for a “modest level of equal opportunities,” he said. While the country’s political and legal systems and respect for human rights are maturing and evolving, Tzang said, it is important to work with China because it comprises 20 percent of the world’s population.
“It is my fervent hope that these two great people and two great nations can join hand-in-hand to build our dreams for a better world,” Tzang said. “If we can do that we can at least accomplish part of the American dream: a better and more meaningful life.”
Tzang worked with Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, who represents Texas’ 18th District, to send Lone Star College students on an exchange trip to China last year, where they studied Chinese culture and business. Those international opportunities help people build a greater understanding and respect for one another, Jackson Lee told the luncheon audience.
“We have moments of opportunity and we have moments of crisis,” she said. “Isn’t it better that we know each other in times of crisis? For that means we might lay down the arms and seek a place at the table to be able to move our countries forward.”
LSC Board Chair Linda S. Good and trustees Ken E. Lloyd, Alton Smith and Ron Trowbridge also attended the conference. When she was a community college student, Good said, she funded a trip to the Netherlands by selling baked goods made from too-ripe bananas she bought a local grocery store every night.
“That trip to the Netherlands was life-changing,” she said. “I am so thrilled that we have students that had the opportunity to go to China last year. I know they will never forget that opportunity. We’re thrilled that we are looking forward to taking another group this year.”
During her breakout session Veronique Tran, LSC-University Park’s dean of math and science, told her personal story of leaving Vietnam in a fishing boat at age 5 after the fall of Saigon. She attended high school in Aldine and took classes at what was then North Harris County Community College, which ultimately led her to a career in higher education. Immigrants need to understand the educational opportunities available to them, she said.
"The community college mission is so aligned with who I am and wanting to serve students,” she said. “I am so excited about a lot of things, but one of the things I wanted to focus on is the access part – opening doors. There are so many students that need our help. They don’t know that all these paths are available.”
Six members of the Lone Star College Model United Nations team spoke about their recent experience in New York, where they won an “Outstanding Delegation” award. The students, who attend LSC’s Kingwood, Montgomery and Tomball campuses, represented Equatorial Guinea’s interests at the National Model United Nations.
Sidney Stockett, a student at LSC-Kingwood, said the International Education Conference helped to expand her global perspective.
“I believe in the purpose of these conferences,” she said. “It’s having that awareness.”
LSC Chancellor Stephen C. Head said the conference, which showcases LSC faculty, students and activities, began in 2002 when LSC-North Harris received a grant from the U.S. Department of Education.
“What we’ve done is we’ve taken that and then we’ve expanded it across our system and we’ve expanded it across the region,” he said. “We’re promoting international education and an international curriculum.”
The event, sponsored by AutoArch Architects, also featured 14 exhibitors, including the Fulbright Program and the Houston Passport Agency.