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The Full Story

The Cannons first started opening their hearts, their hands and their home to International Students in 1978.  By 1991, the Cannons realized that there were a growing number of international students in the United States.  Many of these students are from countries that usually do not have close relationships with Americans, and the Cannons recognized an opportunity to be a catalyst as well as a bridge to better relationships.  Later that year, the 501(c) (3), nonprofit organization, HIS International, which stands for “Helping International Students”, was established. In 1992, with the help of donors, the “HIS House” at 1711 Pendleton Street was purchased and renovated to become formally known as “The Hospitality House”. The HIS house evolved into a place where future generations of international students, international researchers, and visiting scholars would meet and find meaningful opportunities to interact with other internationals and Americans.  At the HIS Hospitality House, internationals were invited to lunches and many other gatherings throughout the year. HIS has perpetuated a non-threatening “community” in which internationals have built relationships with Americans through meals, retreats, English language assistance, local and regional trips, cultural training, and personal helps of all kinds. Most International Student Ministries known as (ISMs) had adopted the hospitality model, which worked for many years to meet the needs of the students. In 1998, HIS expanded and was established on the Virginia Tech campus and in 2005, HIS was established at UNCC in the Charlotte, NC, area by Randy and Wendy Anderson.  


In 2007 many global changes including the Internet and the how the world was beginning to work more together and realize how countries influenced each other. Pete and other leaders saw the many changes and realized ISM work would also be changing.  Leadership is what the world seemed to be craving and just plain needed. International students and scholars were also changing. Most students now were no longer coming from poor, third world countries that had very little to offer a student who was graduating with a higher degree. In the past a large number of students came to study here in hopes of staying in this country, but now this was no longer the case. As a matter of fact, many students today want to return to their country of origin; some have even found that their salaries could be higher in their own countries than it would be in the United States. The hospitality model could use some additions to offer the internationals other tools to help them when they returned to their countries and the world.


To solidify what they had observed Pete and Pat met with leaders involved with international students on both sides of the ocean. Think tanks were organized as well as one on one discussion. Furthermore, in an attempt to discover what internationals themselves thought, surveys were conducted, which showed that a new and more comprehensive approach should be considered.


The research showed that students were interested in learning leadership, ethics, entrepreneurship, networking, coping, and influencing. They also expressed a desire to study resume writing, interviewing, and learning things that would make them more valuable to employ and resilient in setbacks or failures.  Students often express an interest in doing more for their countries, such as helping the poor or improving education. Others did not realize that it is possible to choose a career path that is different from one’s academic degree. Also, many students have a desire to meet successful leaders and perhaps find a mentor. 


Pete and others put together a leadership team to begin to exploring ways students and scholars could be more prepared while visiting or studying in the United States. This team felt leadership training and mentoring which would finally lead to student-leaded groups called the Global Leadership Network, which emerged as a good beginning to meet these additional needs. Previously leadership training in the United States was relegated to business schools, but today the topic is taught across a variety of fields. Most agree that this change has been positive in students and countries.


Consequently, HIS changed its mission statement to reflect this change in thinking, “HIS International is a collaborative organization that mobilizes marketplace and academic leaders to inspire, connect, and equip international students and scholars to become principled leaders, resulting in positive change in their lives and the world.” Pete realized that the focus of the work at HIS would change from solely being about hospitality and helps to being more about intentionally building principled global leaders.  HIS would always be there to help international students, but now the help would be updated to meet the needs of this century. The new mission eventually led to closing the Hospitality House and moving the future gatherings “on or near campus” and closer to the students.  HIS would help encourage international students to launch the Global Leadership Network, which would lead the way as a formal international student organization on each campus.


Unfortunately, Pete’s unexpected death in 2010 caused some setbacks to fully implementing the new mission.  HIS was fortunate that family, friends, and the leadership team stepped in to help bridge the gap immediately after Pete’s death.  In 2012, Pat Cannon accepted the position as Interim-President of HIS International and has found Reid Radtke to take HIS to its next level.

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