Vietnam 1, Alief 0

HCC cuts classes after planting a flag in Saigon

The other concern is the obvious: "We have our own constituency that we need to better serve here, and we ought to be addressing our efforts to the items here, not to this extra item. This is a diversion from the planned mission."

Juan Perez, the system's international initiatives director, visited Vietnam in January to prepare for the chancellor's later trip. He cites a line from the HCC mission statement promising to "prepare individuals in our community for life and work in an increasingly international and technological society."

He believes that international partners are needed, in part to "change that provincial-type mentality that we really need to break from, if we are going to fit into today's world."

Scott Gilbert

Although the community college has had academic assistance and exchange programs with educational institutions in other countries, Perez says this is the first time it has allowed another school to offer HCC credits overseas. He admits that "it represents a really big change for the college in the way it looks at itself and the world."

Academics Vice Chancellor Cook holds out the possibility that Saigon Tech will provide income for the college system while training Vietnamese workers.

"They are paying us for our curriculum, oversight of the program; paying us for the privilege of having HCC as credit in the computer science field," says Cook. "Hopefully, it will result in helping train additional workers there who can come to Houston to finish a degree or go to work for U.S. or Houston companies as workers."

As to possible objections over dealing with the Vietnamese government, HCC board chair Murphy says, "There are some who think it's a problem to do anything with Vietnam. Others say, 'Open the borders to trade.' Those are largely political issues. We certainly believe our international relationships are going to help us build things."

Perhaps, but plenty of community college staffers share the view of a professor who asked to remain anonymous: "The mission of HCC is supposedly to serve the students of Harris County. The chancellor comes back after 'Good morning, Vietnam,' to deliver the message, 'Good night, Alief.' "

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