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Saturday, Dec. 10, 2016

Ambassadors of education and commerce

Posted Friday, April 2, 2010, at 3:29 PM

Last week, I welcomed a group of French educators to the Capitol to discuss a new student-exchange program. This program will benefit Arkansas's economy and enhance the way we prepare Arkansans for careers in engineering, science, and technology.

The CESI Group, founded in France in 1958, was created to train engineers in the management skills of manufacturing projects. Today, the school serves more than 17,000 trainees, apprentices, and students a year in France, Spain, and Algeria. All of its programs have an international dimension and require a four-month internship abroad. I'm very pleased that CESI has chosen the University of Arkansas at Little Rock as one of only two U.S. partners, providing its students with access to UALR's world-class facilities and staff.

UALR's Donaghey College of Engineering and Information Technology and the university's Department of Applied Science have each developed international reputations for their high quality of instruction. Dr. Mary Good, dean of the Donaghey College, is among America's most esteemed scientists and educators. She is creating a culture at UALR that values both cutting-edge research as well as the practical training of skilled professionals to fill critical jobs in Arkansas's workforce.

Dr. Alex Biris, who leads the UALR Nanotechnology Center, shares this vision of using science and technology to increase our understanding of the world while generating practical results to create new companies and jobs for Arkansans. Dr. Biris and his colleagues are on the frontiers of science, working to control matter on an atomic scale and create new materials that have never before existed on the Earth. While this may seem like science fiction, the fact is that nano-material research may help create the next generation of great Arkansas companies.

What attracted CESI to Arkansas and UALR was the quality of our programs and a shared philosophy about the role that universities must play in economic development. CESI pioneered the approach that Dr. Good and Dr. Biris are putting to work at UALR. They train scientists and engineers to respond to the industry's needs by exposing students to the specific training needed by real companies.

CESI serves more than 2,000 companies in an expansive range of industries, from aerospace to computer science and from energy to transportation and medicine. These industry connections represent a long-term economic opportunity for Arkansas. A strong relationship with CESI and its students will create ambassadors on behalf of Arkansas with CESI's partner companies. Furthermore, we hope to expand our relationship with CESI to allow Arkansas students to spend a four-month internship in France where they will attend classes and work part-time for French companies.

Our future depends on our ability to cultivate high-tech, high-paying industries in our State by attracting investment from around the world and by cultivating the next generation of Arkansas entrepreneurs. Both approaches require us to develop a workforce with the knowledge and skills to compete on a global scale. The relationship between CESI and UALR is another important step toward that goal.

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