YSU’s global connections crucial

If Youngstown State University and the Greater Mahoning Valley region plan to continue to diversify their economic futures, we must vigorously pursue and develop working relationships with our academic and industry partners overseas.

That point was made crystal clear during our recent trip to Israel.

Our delegation from YSU, the Youngstown Business Incubator and the Youngstown Area Jewish Federation visited universities and colleges, high-tech businesses and entrepreneurs, and leading government officials during a seven-day trip in January.

It was an eye-opening experience that revealed numerous opportunities for all kinds of partnerships, including student and faculty exchanges, cooperative agreements with Israel’s growing additive manufacturing sector and even the potential for new business creation right here in Youngstown. We left with new ideas and new friends and started conversations that we are confident will lead to solid results. We have more in common with Israel than one might think.

But the bigger picture here is how important it is for us to eliminate our sometimes parochial and insular comforts and to purposefully and progressively reach out to the world.

At YSU, we recognize the necessity of creating an open, inviting, diverse and international environment here on campus. We also recognize how increasingly important it is for our students to experience the world, whether through interactions with students from other countries or through study abroad activities.

Recruiting international students and promoting study overseas is nothing new. In fact, our International Programs Office, led by Dr. Nathan Myers, along with a number of our talented faculty, have created study abroad opportunities that are sometimes weeks in length, and other times a full semester. What is new is that while such activities in years past may have seemed like a luxury for a few students, today it is nearly a requirement for a graduate to succeed in our global economy.

That’s the reason we have stepped up efforts in our International Programs Office. That’s why a delegation of representatives from YSU has visited dozens of universities and colleges in China, South Korea, Japan and Taiwan over the past two years. That’s why we want to grow the number of international students we have on campus (currently 315 from more than 50 countries). And that’s why we spent our week in Israel.

While our country continues to vigorously debate immigration policy, YSU and the Mahoning Valley must remain committed to ensuring that we are connected globally. We look forward to expanding and enhancing our current relationships across the world and creating new partnerships that will benefit our students and our community.

James P. Tressel is president of Youngstown State University.

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