Time for a grand welcome for our international students

Hundreds of international students are expected to descend upon InterCLE 2017 Saturday, September 9, at the Global Center for Health Innovation.

Northeast Ohio’s international students, an economic force waiting to be tapped, are being invited to a first-of-its-kind event September 9 at the Global Center for Health Innovation in downtown Cleveland.

Young adults from around the world will descend on InterCLE 2017, where civic and business leaders will, for the first time, formally welcome them to the region.  The event will feature music, food, cultural demonstrations, networking with employers and an after-party in the Flats.

Organizers hope the welcome and the camaraderie will enhance the international student experience in Northeast Ohio and entice more of the world’s best and brightest to stay on after graduation and launch careers and businesses here.

The event is being presented by Global Cleveland in partnership with the Friends of Global Cleveland—a new, international young professionals group—and with the support of the City of Cleveland.

“We have an exceptional group of international students studying in Greater Cleveland,” said Yulu Li, president of the Friends of Global Cleveland. “But too many of them go home or leave for other parts of the country after graduation. We want them to know they are welcome in Cleveland and Akron and they can have a great life here.”

Li, a native of China, earned her master’s degree in public administration from Cleveland State University in 2014 before starting her career with Hanna Commercial Real Estate’s Corporate Services Group in downtown Cleveland.

She and other Friends describe Cleveland as a city that deserves to be better known around the world.

“Cleveland has been my home for the last 10 years, and there is no place as close to my heart,” said Omar Kurdi, the vice president of the Friends of Global Cleveland.

Kurdi, who holds dual citizenship in the U.S. and Jordan, earned his bachelor’s degree in international relations from Cleveland State University in 2013 before starting his career in public relations and eventually becoming the CEO of Friends for Life Rehabilitation Services, an agency that provides services for adults with disabilities.

“Many of my friends who came as international students are now proud Clevelanders with thriving careers,” he said. “If this does not scream to the world that Cleveland is great, then I don’t know what will.”

More than 6,000 international students will arrive this fall at colleges and universities like CSU, Case Western Reserve, John Carroll, Kent State, Akron, Baldwin Wallace and Oberlin. Economic development experts say they could offer an advantage in the global economy. Compared to their native-born classmates, international student are more likely to:

  • Earn degrees in the in-demand STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and math
  • Be awarded a patent for an invention
  • Be bilingual or multilingual
  • Have contacts in global markets

Research also shows that Northeast Ohio could do a better job connecting with this talent source. According to a 2015 study commissioned by the Ohio Board of Regents, the region retains less than 40 percent of its international students. The national average is 45 percent.

By lifting the retention rate to 50 percent—which is not uncommon for major cities–the region would benefit from increased population, a better-educated workforce and job creation, researchers concluded.

“It starts with a welcome,” said Joe Cimperman, the president of Global Cleveland. “These are some of brightest minds from China, India, Israel, the Middle East and Europe. We want them to know they are welcome here and can build their lives here. We want their talent, we want their drive, and we want the companies and inventions they are going to create. It starts with a welcome.”

InterCLE runs from 3 to 6 p.m. Saturday, September 9 at the Global Center, 1 St. Clair Avenue.