US State Department’s Community College Initiative Helps International Students Build Workforce, Leadership Skills

Entrance to Whatcom Community College.


Submitted by Whatcom Community College

Entrance to Whatcom Community College.
Whatcom Community College will be one of 17 campuses across 11 states to participate in the US State Department’s Community College Initiative Program. Photo credit Stacee Sledge.

Exchange participants are arriving at Whatcom Community College (WCC), one of 17 campuses across 11 states, to begin the 2015 – 2016 Community College Initiative (CCI) Program. The CCI is a program of the US State Department that provides participants with quality educational study at US community colleges and is designed to build technical skills, enhance leadership capabilities and strengthen English language proficiency.

Participants pursue educational study focused on one-year certificate programs in workforce development fields. At WCC, 19 students from Bangladesh, Turkey, Yemen, Indonesia, India, Egypt, South Africa, Ghana and Pakistan will be studying early childhood education, information technology, hospitality and tourism, and business retail management. The CCI students join approximately 300 international students from 30 countries who are studying at Whatcom through the College’s International Program.

The CCI program also provides opportunities for professional internships, service learning and community engagement activities. The Whatcom students will study local and state government during visits to Bellingham City Hall and the Washington State Capitol. They’ll learn about business and sustainability through internships, tours and volunteer posts at local businesses and non-profits such as Taylor Shellfish Farm, Bellewood Acres, area hotels and Growing Veterans. And they’ll gain leadership skills through participation in WCC clubs and presentations regarding their cultures at local high schools and middle schools. After completing the program, participants return home with a deeper understanding of US culture and new skills to help them contribute to the economic growth and development of their countries.

Since 2007, the CCI Program has hosted more than 2,350 participants from 20 countries. Photo courtesy of Whatcom Community College.

CCI participants also contribute to their US host communities by helping US community colleges to internationalize their campuses. According to 2012 – 2013 “Open Doors Report,” only 1 percent of US community college students will gain 21st-century international experience and workforce skills through study abroad. CCI exchange participants engage community college students with international cultures and diverse perspectives in their classrooms and on their home campuses. CCI participants will study in Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.

Since 2007, the CCI Program has hosted more than 2,350 participants from 20 countries. This year, CCI participants are from Bangladesh, Brazil, Colombia, Cote d’Ivoire, Egypt, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Pakistan, South Africa, Turkey and Yemen. The CCI Program recruits participants from underserved and unrepresented communities, particularly women. This is the seventh year that Whatcom Community College has participated in the program.

For further information regarding the CCI Program, please contact the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at

For information regarding WCC’s participation, please contact, 360-383-3310.

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