Loida Peterson spoke at the Mount Airy Rotary Club’s luncheon at Cross Creek County Club Tuesday about economic as well as educational benefits of globalization through student cultural exchange programs.
Peterson taught at Surry Community College for eight years and continues to teach Portuguese at SCC in addition to teaching at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. Peterson opened her talk by saying immersion programs affect the lives of students of any age.
“Anyone at any stage of their life can get something from the experience. I’m a firm believer it can change a life,” said Peterson. “This experience begins in a classroom the first time they learn of another language or on the playground that first day when they encounter a classmate from somewhere else.” She said the these opportunities traditionally come through Rotary exchange programs, sister city efforts and high school exchange programs.
She next briefly outlined how these efforts affect economic activity, especially when the regional effects of recent economic groups such as BRIC, which is composed of Brazil, Russia, India and China, are taken into account.
“Anyone in touch with a different culture affects foreign business, not just big communities but small ones as well,” said Peterson. “Growth of the Hispanic community has slowed but I am still seeing a lot of Hispanic students and children of Hispanic families.” She said North Carolina has 850 international businesses and partnerships and noted the growth of Hispanic businesses.
Peterson said 2010 state census figures (compared to current census data) indicated the Hispanic population has grown 25 percent with an estimated $4 billion in business receipts coming from Hispanic business to the state last year. She told the group one big economic player in this is Brazil and that the United States is an active economic partner with the country.
Peterson told the group she had been involved with five other North Carolina community colleges which have formed a consortium to share cultural enrichment resources which culminated in a video conference classroom. She said she worked with SCC President Dr. David Shockley on forming the Brazilian Initiative, an interdisciplinary initiative aimed at producing collaborative research, teaching and outreach projects focused on Brazil starting in 2007 when he was vice president of Caldwell Community College & Technical Institute. SCC held its first student trip to Brazil this past summer.
Another goal of the initiative is to bring faculty and alumni together with private foundations, businesses and state agencies to help better understand and engage with Brazil as an emerging global economy.
She told the Rotarians the initiative is also seeking to increase short-term study programs where students will finish up their degree requirements in a specific country they have studied, long term study abroad including establishing local host families and instructor exchange programs.
One themed cultural day event at SCC focused on the impact of foods on culture, giving a global perspective on foods eaten. Surry Community has also held trips to Costa Rica, Spain and Florida.
“The language is the same in many countries but the cultures are different,” said Peterson. “Sometimes the trips affect them right away and sometimes it takes years. It makes you (students) more introspective about your own culture. They learn more about themselves and the bring more of the world home, back to Mount Airy. It expands all of our world views.”
Reach David Broyles at firstname.lastname@example.org or 336-719-1952.