College increases global awareness

Sequim Gazette

More and more international students are choosing Peninsula College as their American source of higher education.

That’s great news, says Sophia Iliakis-Doherty, P.C.’s director of international student programs and student recruitment. Iliakis-Doherty took on that title in November, stepping into the big shoes left by China-born Ge-Yao Liu, who ran the program for a dozen years. Some 60-70 percent of the international students now attending P.C. are from China, Hong Kong and that region. “Opening the Chinese market” is a major part of Liu’s legacy, said Iliakis-Doherty.

Altogether P.C. is host to 88 international students from 14 nations.

The program’s primary purpose is to increase diversity within the community college’s student body.

Toward that end, Iliakis-Doherty is working to further diversify the nationalities within each new class.

She said Liu had recruited primarily through personal relationships that he maintained in Hong Kong and the rest of China. While continuing and expanding those relationships, Iliakis-Doherty also is relying on international agencies that specialize in recruiting international students to American colleges.

Increasing cultural awareness
Iliakis-Doherty said bringing in international students serves the college’s larger goal of
ensuring the students achieve “intercultural competency.”

“Our president’s vision is globalization. Because we’re out on the peninsula, away from major cosmopolitan centers, we feel it’s more important. The world is getting smaller. Students have to learn to live and work in a global society.”

Jack Huls, who as vice president for student services oversees the program, agreed much of the new emphasis on globalization has been put into place by P.C. President Dr. Thomas A. Keegan, who sought successfully to have “Global Awareness” established as one of the college’s five strategic priorities.
That means, says Huls, “We are working to prepare our students to succeed in an increasingly interdependent world. We want our domestic students to interact with international students.”

Huls says the initiative includes encouraging Peninsula College’s American students to study abroad.

“We are providing them a chance to interact — to work with students from around the world,” he said.
Iliakis-Doherty noted the college also has faculty exchanges, including one Chinese professor who is teaching Mandarin at P.C.

For more than a decade, P.C. has maintained a working relationship with Guilin University of Technology in Guangxi, China. Now the college is working toward creating two more alliances with overseas universities.

Making it work
The college has established a formal committee on global initiatives whose work includes further “globalizing the campus.” The committee also works with Iliakis-Doherty and her staff to formulate new programs that will make P.C. more attractive to prospective international students, including “intensive English” programs.

Huls said all of the international students are required to enroll as full-time students. That means each pays the full cost of tuition or about $8,000 for an average academic year.

By contrast, Washington students pay approximately $3,700.

Home away from home

Iliakis-Doherty said the international students integrate well with current Peninsula College students and with the general population of Port Angeles.

Though they are not required to, many of the students stay with a host family, creating close ties with the community. “We’re trying to fully integrate the international students,” Iliakis-Doherty said, adding the American students are in full agreement. “Student government has really embraced it,” she said.

Reach Mark Couhig at



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