CALAIS, Maine — Senior business faculty member Bill Case recognizes that the future for students enrolled in the business program at Washington County Community College is going to be the global economy.
With Canada as the college’s neighbor, Case sees the international border that Maine shares with New Brunswick as a working laboratory for students. He has thus introduced an International Commerce Business concentration as part of the college’s curriculum.
“Our proximity to the border and its activity gives us a natural ‘reality’ lab that provides numerous opportunities for faculty, staff, students and businesses to exercise teaching moments,” he said. “Currency exchange, tariffs, transportation, cultural, political, social and legal issues are demonstrated continuously and are easily facilitated as educational opportunities that are not easily replicated.”
Case listed some of the strengths of the new program as border assets such as global logistics and international brokerage firms, companies engaged in international enterprises and shipping facilities and customs resources on both sides of the border. Those assets could lead to a strong teaching program that would include internships for students.
Once Case established the model for the curriculum, he set out to contact some of the key players who could make the program a reality.
Among the available resources are the international ports in Eastport and in Bayside, New Brunswick. Business resources include Irving Oil Inc., Cooke Aquaculture and Acadia Seaplants, which have a presence in both Maine and New Brunswick, just to name a few. Case also has contacted customs officials who have agreed to cooperate.
Calais sits in the heart of the proposed east-west international highway corridor and another resource is the Maine International Trade Center that also is supportive of the program.
Case noted that he did not believe that any other institution was pursuing a two-year credential in International Commerce.
The college program would be open to students from both sides of the international border.
“This provides us with an opportunity to enter the New Brunswick market for associate degree granting articulation agreements and transfers to the University of New Brunswick campuses for students completing the International Commerce program of study,” he said. Students who graduate from the WCCC two-year program could complete their education either at four-year institutions in Canada or Maine. The Saint John and Fredericton campuses of the University of New Brunswick are within an hour drive of WCCC.
Susan Mingo, WCCC’s associate dean of enrollment and retention services, said that it would be her job to recruit students to the program. “What we are looking at are some of the secondary schools in the area to recruit foreign students for next year,” she said. “They seem like a natural fit for the program. We are looking to add diversity to the program.”
Susan also said she believed the program would be a valuable asset to small businesses in the community who are looking beyond their borders to expand. “This would be a resource to help them market, advertise and promote the commerce part of their business,” she said.
Case said that with this program, WCCC was poised to provide an education that would prepare students for work in a global economy.
“This presents a remarkable opportunity for the college to serve the area and to utilize the resources that are here,” he said. “Politically, socially and economically, it is the right time and the right place for this initiative.”