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Admittedly, the primary mission of any community college is to serve the residents of thelocal community in order to achieve their educational andoccupational goals and further their career goals.

However, this community is no longer just a geographically limited community to be located on a map.

As anyone familiar with the technological and social revolutions of our times, we know that the community has expanded to include the whole world. Most jobs today require trainingbeyond high school and skills that are, for the most part, taught at community colleges.

The associate's degree and the education and training that it represents not only appliesnationwide but worldwide. What a position for Erie Community College to be in.

ECC's expertise in training people from all over the world has been occurring for years and is no longer considered a well-kept secret among many.

ECC students are studying abroad in ever-greater numbers and more would like to.

The idea that a community college should restrict its activities to the local sphere is shortsighted and neglects the realities of international trade and communication. Indeed, ECCalready serves more than 300 students from as many as 37 countries.

These students, who are also residents and taxpayers, already contribute culturally and educationally to our community.

The News editorial should have been able to separate the issue of President Louis Ricci's use of funds derived from student profits to travel abroad with the real need to open and continue international communication on behalf of the residents of Erie County and the students of ECC.

There is no question that the chief academic officer of a college the size of ECC's should have a travel budget to use at the college's and board of trustees' discretion in order to further the mission of the college. In any case, let us not underestimate the need for such travel.

Buffalo no longer exists in isolation and hasn't for many years.

Just this summer, the college sponsored a group of 15 Korean students from Chosun University who studied English at the City Campus while traveling throughout the area and becomingacquainted with the variedattractions.

They paid their own way -- tuition, supplies, travel, food, etc., and got to know many of the fine folks at the college and in Western New York.

The key point is that they chose ECC over other colleges in the area because of the individualized attention they would get here.

As a result of this encounter, we are expecting another group (maybe even larger) next summer. Had it not been for President Ricci's efforts, these Korean students would have gone elsewhere.

There is a legitimate role for the chief officer of a college the size of ECC's to travel abroad to enhance, negotiate and empower the college from this rich source of international student and scholar exchange.

In addition to students who have studied abroad, many of the faculty at ECC have already participated in such exchanges, teaching in countries such as the Czech Republic and Estonia.

Students should continue to have the opportunity to benefit from international experience. They deserve no less.

Ellene S. Phufas Eleanor Paterson Esteban Lopez Faculty, ECC City Campus

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