Originally published August 18, 2012
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For more than a half century, Michigan State University has welcomed students from other nations who want to further their education in the United States.
Its success has been noteworthy. MSU students study with a large contingent of foreign-born peers — nearly 6,000 last fall — whose presence enriches the educational environment for all. In a global economy where keen understanding of the economic connections between nations is vital, MSU’s success at attracting students from around the world is an important asset. So are its exceptional programs to offer U.S.-born students opportunities to study abroad.
And now MSU’s success in this area has become an important asset for Greater Lansing. The presence of thousands of international students and their families, not to mention hundreds more visiting faculty, researchers and lecturers from around the globe, adds to the region’s appeal as a welcoming place to live and work. It is, as Prima Civitas CEO Steve Webster notes in today’s Greater Lansing Outlook, a rare competitive advantage, and one that the community must embrace with enthusiasm.
Start with the obvious: The presence of people from varied cultures — and the restaurants and shops that cater to their customs — add a cosmopolitan ambiance that other communities of this size could only hope to emulate. And there are social advantages. As MSU trustee emerita Barbara Sawyer-Koch notes, the Community Volunteers for International Programs offers numerous options for area residents to connect with international students — starting relationships that can and do become lasting friendships.
And there are, of course, economic implications. Webster notes that MSU’s international students add some $175 million annually to the local economy.
And Gov. Rick Snyder, a successful venture capitalist before he was a politician, points out that in the past two decades, nearly 20 percent of new businesses were started by foreign-born entrepreneurs and a third of high-tech companies were launched by immigrants. Communities that welcome international students certainly can be attractive options when and if those students decide to launch a business.
Now more than ever, the chance to attract and connect with international students benefits Greater Lansing and offers opportunity for the future.
An LSJ editorial