It’s Time To Give Our International Students A Grand Welcome

By Joe Cimperman


They began arriving on campus last week, nervous and excited and anxious to learn their way around this strange new city.

They come from Italy and India and Lithuania. They came from China and Saudi Arabia and Argentina. They came in big numbers—nearly 7,000 of them.

I’m talking about our international students—who we should really be viewing as reinforcements.

If you have greeted or hired one of our international students, bless you. You are helping Cleveland. If you do not know about this resource waiting to be utilized, let me tell you about it.

These are some of the brightest young people on the planet. That’s why their families and their nations sent them to America for college.

Typically, they are earning an advanced degree.

Our colleges and universities love them because they are hard-working and pay full tuition and help create a cultural mosaic on campus. (Have lunch one day on the campus of CWRU or CSU or KSU and see what I mean).

Our cities should love them even more. Why? Because they are going to help us compete in the global economy—if we let them.

Here are some facts about our international students that you may not know:

  • They are likely to be earning an in-demand degree in a STEM field—science, technology, engineering or math
  • They are more likely than the average college student to be awarded a U.S. patent for an invention
  • They are more likely to start a business
  • They are bilingual and often multi-lingual


These are no ordinary immigrants. These are ambitious, culturally savvy young adults primed to help us succeed in the new economy.

The key is to get them to stay on after graduation, to get them to view Northeast Ohio as the place to launch their companies and their careers. We keep some, but not enough. An Ohio Board of Regents study found that our retention rate for international students is below average. Why?

We all need to try harder, civic, corporate, philanthropic, faith based institutions together. We are ready to lead the charge.

Most every week, Global Cleveland hears from an international student—often one with an elite degree—who reports being unable to find a local employer willing to sponsor his or her visa. And so they leave for the coasts. Or for Pittsburg. It hurts our hearts.

One of our big efforts is to help our employers understand the very feasible process of hiring international talent. Another is to help everyone feel welcome here.

Right now, our eyes are on the new arrivals.

On Saturday, we are hosting InterCLE 2017 from 3 to 6 p.m. at the Global Center for Health Innovation.  This is a grand welcome for our international students—something that has never been done before.

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson and business and civic leaders will formally welcome these scholars to our city. There will be international food and music and professional networking. I might even join the after-party in the Flats.

We hope this is the start of something big and something lasting. We envision hosting an InterCLE every year.

These young people love our schools—that’s why they are here. We need their talent and their ambition. We need to love them back.

It starts with a welcome. It starts Saturday. Come and see.