Acting dean Sukant Misra said students of the inaugural class at the university’s first international campus and their families have embraced the new venture.
First steps are invigorating no matter what the endeavor, and when a first day of school is the backdrop, the excitement is piqued that much more.
That was the case late last month when Texas Tech University launched its first fully functional international campus in Costa Rica, and school officials are excited about how the initial transitional phase unfolded.
“It is gratifying to enroll our first class and see the fruits of the work and planning that made this possible,” said Lawrence Schovanec, Texas Tech president. “I am grateful to the staff at Texas Tech and our partners in Costa Rica for their extraordinary efforts and investments that have resulted in this historic achievement. We are excited for students in Costa Rica and Latin America that they now have access to the value and quality of a Texas Tech education in San Jose, Costa Rica.”
The response acting dean Sukant Misra, who was on hand for the campus' opening, saw from the unique new crop of international Texas Tech students and their families caught his attention.
Misra is the acting dean of the vice provost for the Office of International Affairs and has been extensively involved with Texas Tech's endeavor to expand its brand around the world. As part of his role as the acting dean of TTU-Costa Rica, Misra was front and center for the opening of the Central American campus as the university welcomed 41 students to the new building in Escazú, a western suburb of San José, the capital of Costa Rica.
“The amazing part of the experience for me is that the students and their parents had no complaints,” Misra said. “They were so thrilled that we were there and getting things started. The most important thing to me was to experience this excitement of the students and their parents on this new campus.”
The opening was the latest step in a Texas Tech venture that Misra and other university administrators hope and believe will open a gateway to the rest of Latin America.
Opening new avenues
Texas Tech President Lawrence Schovanec announced the establishment of the Costa Rica campus in 2016, the result of two years of research and planning. Costa Rica is regarded as a gateway to the rest of Latin America, but is still easily reached from Texas. The country is considered one of the most stable democracies in the Latin American region, with an estimated 250 high-tech multi-national companies.
Now the country also houses Texas Tech's first international campus.
“It is great to see that the fruit of our labor is here,” Misra said. “So many people have worked so hard to take care of all the details and the logistics for the last 4½ years. I cannot compare the excitement I saw last week, particularly in the faces of our students and the family members. They're excited about the opportunities we have brought to their homeland.”
Texas Tech Provost Michael Galyean said he has been very impressed by the enthusiasm of our students and their families at TTU-Costa Rica.
“They are clearly very excited about the opportunities that our campus brings to them personally and to Costa Rica in general,” Galyean said. “I have also been extremely encouraged by the degree to which Texas Tech faculty and staff have worked, along with our partners in Edulink, to make the campus a reality.”
The initial wave of new students primarily consists of traditional students who recently graduated from high school and live at home, Misra said. The next incoming class is projected to up to twice as big, and Misra said the university's initial goal is to accommodate 200 students. Though the majority of students hail from Costa Rica or are Americans living in the country, there are several from neighboring countries.
All the students speak English fluently and four of the five professors on campus are bilingual, with the fifth working on becoming fluent in Spanish. Misra quipped that he was the only person during the opening week who struggled with Spanish, which is not one of the five languages he speaks.
“The students on campus proudly embrace their culture and are very close to their families, but at the same time, they are very comfortable with the American way of living,” Misra said.
Looking at the future
Misra was enthusiastic when he surveyed the new campus' beginning and what could lie ahead.
While Texas Tech has established an international presence in a variety of venues, taking the step to establish a campus dedicated to offering undergraduate degrees to international students in or near their homeland is a monumental step into what Misra sees as a bright future that abounds with opportunity.
“As impactful as we think this campus will be, this is not just about Costa Rica. There is a tremendous opportunity for us to make an impact in the entire Latin American region. If this evolves like I think it will, in 5-6 years you're going to see Texas Tech have a significant presence in the entire region.
“There is a tremendous level of excitement. The students and their families know who Texas Tech University is. They respect our reputation and know we provide a quality education. Our reputation is going to continue to grow, and we have a chance to become a huge power in the educational enterprise in that region. There is great appreciation that we have taken the time and made the effort to bring an opportunity for American education to them.”
Added Galyean, “I think our TTU-Costa Rica campus will be a springboard for study-abroad opportunities, additional academic offerings and a strong research presence for Texas Tech in the region.”
Which equates to opening new doors at Texas Tech for students who might never have considered the university previously.
“This is a chance to provide access to foreign students to a quality American education without them having to break the bank,” said Misra, who works extensively with international students in his on-campus role in Lubbock and knows the financial challenges many of them face to study in the United States.
“This is a fascinating experience for me and other administrators because it is another way for us to help students pursue their dreams.”
With the first few steps taken, Misra said he hopes the Costa Rican campus can evolve into the same kind of cultural center – or as close as possible – that students in Lubbock embrace.
He joked that a few students have begged him to bring Texas Tech hats and T-shirts the next time he visits, which he says is symbolic of the enthusiasm he has encountered.
“We will certainly get that taken care of,” Misra said. “The school spirit is really building up. Students are hungry to be part of our Texas Tech culture. We hope to stream football games and other sporting events soon to help fuel that even more.”