Diversity and Democracy

Preparing Globally Competitive, Collaborative, and Compassionate Students

Higher education has engaged in much discussion about the need to prepare students to be globally competitive in this increasingly complex world. But at Bellevue College (BC), we see helping our students become globally collaborative and compassionate as equally important.

With a single campus located east of Seattle, BC serves over thirty-four thousand students each year and is the third-largest educational institution in Washington state. BC is primarily a community college, preparing 55 percent of its students for transfer and 45 percent for professional and technical careers. Our students come from all walks of life and have diverse needs. Sixty-five percent of students work while attending school, and 22 percent have dependent family members. Some students already have higher education degrees, and many will need to "stop out" at various points for financial reasons. But regardless of their backgrounds or educational levels, our students are interacting in a globally connected environment.

At BC, we believe that global education needs to be available to all students at all levels of education. We believe that students can develop global competencies along multiple educational pathways: in general education, in major-readiness courses, in professional and technical programs, and in developmental education (Jaswal and Rush 2009). Whatever their backgrounds, all students deserve the opportunity to benefit from learning that connects them to the global community.

Experiential Learning

BC has sponsored several student-led trips abroad and nationally that enact our vision of helping students become globally competitive, collaborative, and compassionate through applied interdisciplinary learning.

In 2006, professional and technical business students and students in the business administration transfer program collaborated to form the International Business Exploration Club (IBEC). IBEC students wanted to apply the theories they had learned in the classroom by selling organically grown fair-trade coffee to raise money for the village of Santa Anita, Guatemala, where the coffee originates. In collaboration with an organization called Pura Vida, the students traveled to Guatemala, where they helped coffee farmers grow and harvest their crops. After returning home, the students applied their learning and shared their knowledge with the campus community through year-long academic internships. Their experience is documented at www.youtube.com/watch?v=AUdy7ADZd9E.

Similarly, students from across disciplines came together in 2002 with the support of Student Programs to form the Rotaract Club, a junior chapter of the Bellevue Rotary. The students are currently raising awareness about disabilities by working with the local Rotary, with our sister Rotaract Club in Patan, Nepal, and with students from our Venture Program (an occupational associate degree program for developmentally disabled students). Rotaract students traveled to Patan in May 2009 to work with people with disabilities and the organizations that support them. Using the training and insight they gained, the students will participate in yearlong academic internships to support disability awareness activities on and off campus. The project is documented at www.youtube.com/watch?v=qgu3cL7VH0U&feature=related.

Beyond Silos

How did BC create these programs within the constraints of today's tightening budgets? It took the vision of our students and faculty members, the support of the Student Programs office, and the collaboration of several campus units and community members. Funding came from various sources: the BC Foundation, student and activities fees, fundraising efforts by student clubs and programs, contributions from community organizations, and small personal contributions by each student.

In other words, it took a lot of work and extensive collaboration--but the results have been well worth the effort. Our students' experiences help us renew our commitment to preparing all students to succeed in the global community. Through these and other efforts, we hope to create diverse, ethical, and compassionate leadership that will define our world's future course.


Jaswal, F. and S. H. N. Rush. 2009. Preparing the global citizen at the community college.Internally published report.

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