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AIC Renews Its International Focus with a Series of Programs Around the World
Roland Holstead

Roland Holstead, vice president for Educational Enterprise at AIC.

The new international focus at American International College is producing some intriguing visuals: Chief Marketing Officer Craig Cote on an Irish hillside; Peter Miller, vice president of Admissions, sitting atop a camel; and Roland Holstead, vice president for Educational Enterprise, posing with a young Italian police officer named Andrew Scibelli, to name a few.

Each image is proof of a new focus at AIC to put greater emphasis on the ‘international’ part of its name. Founded in 1885 with a primary goal of educating immigrants, the private, four-year institution in Springfield is returning to its roots in one sense, but also planting new seeds as it launches a series of new, diverse programs around the globe.

In 2007 alone, AIC unveiled four new international programs, and is formulating plans for more. These initiatives span three continents and are diverse in and of themselves, including an international MBA, a master’s in education for teachers from virtually any country, and two study-abroad programs, one of which could soon morph into a trans-continental exchange.

AIC’s president, Vince Maniaci, said renewing the college’s international presence has long been at the top of his to-do list, and this year’s explosion of activity in that arena is proof that the campus, and the world, is ready for AIC’s return to the global marketplace.

“In today’s world and economy, educational partnerships are more important than ever,” he said. “Since 9/11, many colleges and universities have pulled away from international opportunities, but a number of factors have converged to make our international programming particularly timely.”

These factors include the widely held belief that American colleges remain the best in the world, but also the current weak state of the U.S. dollar, which is making the nation’s higher education offerings even more attractive to residents of other countries.

As such, Holstead, who’s done a fair amount of globetrotting this year and has taken to calling himself the “vice president of new stuff” recently, said he’s noticed a shift on AIC’s campus — a new attitude among faculty, staff, and students as they survey new prospects on the horizon.

“We’re very excited about it,” he said. “We want to expand our regional, national, and international reputation as being a college of opportunity.”

Pyramid Scheme

The first of these opportunities was announced in July of this year: a master’s degree program in Cairo, Egypt. It’s based in an educational compound of sorts, which includes kindergarten through 12th-grade classes and a technical school. AIC has introduced a master’s in International Education to the campus, designed to further the education of teachers hailing from several countries.

Holstead said 21 teachers are currently enrolled in the course track, some from Egypt, but others from the Ukraine, Jordan, Lebanon, Poland, and other countries. He added that they’ll graduate in July of next year, on the occasion of AIC’s 123rd anniversary.

It’s a notable day for the college, and the Egyptian graduation was planned to coincide deliberately, but that’s not the most notable connection the program has to AIC’s Springfield campus.

Rollin Baldwin, a 1944 graduate of AIC, was instrumental in securing a spot for the college in Egypt, having spent the bulk of his career promoting education, including through the creation of new schools.

Baldwin co-founded MEANS, the Middle East Association of National (independent) Schools, in 1995, as a non-profit organization that designs programs for ‘American-style’ schools awarding diplomas. It’s also an approved NGO — non-governmental organization — in Egypt.

“He was connected to the accrediting boards, and met with us to talk about opportunities,” said Holstead. “We each felt it was a natural for us to provide a master’s for teachers, especially those recruited to teach in Egypt.”

Moving forward, there are additional international initiatives on the horizon that are benefiting from Baldwin’s international influence, including plans to offer college courses in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico through the Baldwin School, an English-language, college preparatory institute he also founded.

Across the Pond

On the other side of the Atlantic, however, new international initiatives are rolling out just as briskly.

Following the creation of the master’s track in Cairo, AIC cemented a partnership with the Mountbatten Institute in London, as part of an MBA degree program that is also internationally focused. The institute, a student exchange and business-training organization founded in 1984, has long offered post-graduate study and internship opportunities for international students, each year placing more than 500 graduates in a variety of companies in New York and London.

Through this new relationship, those graduates may now earn their master’s in Business Administration from AIC, by adding in courses designed by AIC and Mountbatten faculty.

Students enrolled in the exchange earn a portion of the credits toward their degree in London, and a portion at the AIC/Mountbatten Graduate Study Center in Bangkok, Thailand, taking courses in global business leadership, Asian political and economic developments, and analysis of Asian company organization and business practices, among others.

The U.K. will soon be host to another AIC offering, as well: a semester-long study-abroad program for stateside AIC students will commence in January, on the Dingle Peninsula of Ireland.

Holstead said this study-abroad opportunity is unique because it forges a connection between Western Mass. and a place with which some residents are familiar; many trace their roots back to the peninsula, located in the west of County Kerry.

“Irish descended from the region are very prevalent in the area,” he said. “I’ve read that more than 6,000 came to this area after World War II.”

Building on that existing connection between Dingle and Springfield, students accepted into the program will complete three courses during their stay examining the social structures and cultural aspects of Ireland, and the politics and economics of the European Union.

“There’s an applied, experiential aspect to these courses,” said Holstead. “The economics course is probably the most formal, but the courses complement each other to create a solid program that increases the students’ global knowledge base.”

Students will travel throughout Ireland as part of the program as well, he said, noting that Galway, Dublin, Limerick, and Belfast are on the itinerary, and students will also make a trip to Brussels, Belgium as part of their study of the E.U.

“There, they’ll be able to sit in on debates and discussions that will be very globally relevant,” said Holstead. “It’s an amazing opportunity.”

International Flavor

Further, the study-abroad program in Ireland will also serve as a precursor to a second European study-abroad initiative, said Holstead, which will take its cue from the heritage of many Springfield residents of Italian descent. Beginning in September of next year, AIC will launch a semester-long program in Salerno, Italy, similar to that taking place on the Dingle Peninsula.

Unlike the Irish program, though, the Italian program is planned to include two phases: a semester-long study-abroad for AIC students, and later an undergraduate degree program for Italian students, who would complete two years of courses in Italy and complete their education in Springfield as upperclassmen.

Maniaci said that raising AIC’s international profile should not be relegated to programs abroad for American students. Rather, he hopes to further strengthen the flagship campus through an influx of students from various countries, backgrounds, and cultures.

“Our name gives us a brand and a visibility advantage that is consistent with our heritage and original mission,” he said. “Our name also creates a comfort level for families concerned that their students may not be welcome in an American institution. It tells them that not only will they receive a welcome at AIC, they should anticipate and expect such an atmosphere.”

And as that atmosphere continues to evolve, AIC’s image — at home and abroad — is increasingly coming into focus.

Jaclyn Stevenson can be reached at[email protected]