Bellevue College’s International Student Program One of the Best in the U.S.
“Bellevue College truly is where the world comes together to learn.”
-Cris Samia, Assistant Dean, International Student Programs, Bellevue College
Q. What are your current job responsibilities?
A. I am responsible for the international student department and marketing abroad Bellevue College. This is especially important for international student programs, which is a very large and successful part of the business of Bellevue College.
Under my help and leadership, the international student program here has become one of the best and most successful programs in the United States. We are ranked as one of the top 40 colleges with the largest international enrollment in the whole country, with more than 1,000 students from 70 countries.
Bellevue College truly is where the world comes together to learn. In fact, that is the slogan I developed for the college, and the best slogans are the true ones.
Q. Please tell us about your path to this job and what makes you a success in it?
A. My path to this job at Bellevue College was not a direct one. I worked in a number of odd jobs and started a couple of small businesses in the Bellevue-Seattle area. Then, I finally landed this job.
The college didn’t do any marketing before me, and I convinced them they needed a marketing person to create and lead that effort. Honestly, they were reluctant at first but now see the value of it. Especially since it has become big business to work successfully with international students. International students contributed over $21 billion to the U.S. economy. In Washington State alone in 2010, it is estimated that the 17,811 international students contributed $464 million in our state economy.
For 25 years, I was an executive in the national broadcast media business in the Philippines. Because of my successful career in the broadcast media industry, I was able to have a very comfortable life for my family and had a great relationship and influence in the government and the military.
When the coup took place in 1986, it became very chaotic. It came to the point that I had to bring my two daughters here to the U.S. and later, my wife and my two young boys to escape the numerous coups d’état after Corazon Aquino became the president and the uncertainty that it brought to our country.
We arrived in the Seattle area in 1986. My family lives just north of Bellevue in a small town called Bothell. I feel fortunate that I was not only able to save my family from that situation but to give them the opportunities that this country has to offer.
They can be healthy here, too – good food, water, air. It’s very rewarding to see my children now raising their own families in a safe and beautiful country.
Even though this job is in a different field from the one that I had in the Philippines, I attribute my success in the field of international marketing to the fact that I am using the professional skills and experience developed during my career as a broadcaster and marketer.
Q. In what ways is Bellevue College showing leadership in the international arena?
A. Bellevue College has built successful relationships throughout Asia. China has been a part of that, and I see continuing growth in that portion of our business. The integration of our educational programs with technology expertise in our region makes a powerful formula for success.
The College is expanding what it is able to offer, and the students’ success contributes to stronger and stronger relationships in China and elsewhere. Our leadership in technology education is a very important factor. In fact, one of our selling points is that our college has been awarded the Paul Simon’s Award for Campus Internationalization in 2004, together with Duke University, St. Norbert College, University of North Carolina and Binghamton University.
Yahoo Finance ranked Bellevue College as one of the 15 Fantastic Higher Education Values in the U.S. and we were named as the second Microsoft IT Showcase School in the U.S. for leadership in Information Technology education and teaching.
Q. Is there any new initiative or project you are engaged in or hope to start that will help further these opportunities?
A. In April, I spent three weeks visiting seven cities in Asia, including five in China. The trip was a chance to meet again with our educational partners, build new relationships, and speak directly to young students and parents who might want to study or invest here.
I am also taking part in the US-China Education Cooperation Forum in Beijing, Zibo and Weipang.
We are also starting a cohort program in partnership with the University of Washington, initially just for mainland Chinese students into their Business Program in Bellevue and Bothell.
Q. What advice do you have for others about how to be successful in this region?
A. When I first brought my family here, to be honest, it wasn’t easy. We had to make adjustments – to not having as much money at first, to making new friends, to missing some of our family like cousins, grandmother, and the luxuries of having nannies and house helpers and drivers.
It’s naturally going to be a different way of life. However, this is a great international community, there are lots of opportunities, and technology invention in this area drives a lot of economic growth.
My advice would be to have persistence, stay true to yourselves, and help your children to adjust. Eventually it all works out.
Q. How do your own experiences help you encourage the families of students from Asia who plan to attend Bellevue College?
A. I have been through difficult and sometimes dangerous experiences in my own past. That gives me a special perspective. I don’t let little things bother me. That also gives me an ability to work with corporate executives, government officials and to relate to the public, especially to parents of families from Asia – like my home country – or China. That is a very important thing – the parents who make the decision to send their children to school in another country.
I also tell the students who come to Bellevue College to be very serious about their education, to work hard and honor the privilege that they have to study here, and then they can return home to serve their country and be successful.
Q. How can we learn more about Bellevue College?
A. Visit our websites: