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Opportunities expand for partnerships with China

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(Seated from left) Jane Karas represented AACC in a signing this month with Zong Wa of the China Education Association for International Exchange. The organizations plan to improve collaboration.
Several recent activities undertaken by the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) are aimed at strengthening ties among U.S. community colleges and Chinese vocational and technical institutions.
 
This spring, a delegation of the heads of colleges and technical schools in China took part in an intensive learning experience at two-year colleges in the U.S. and shared their findings at a meeting co-hosted by AACC last week before returing to China.
 
Meanwhile, Jane Karas, president of Flathead Valley Community College in Montana and chair-elect of the AACC board of directors, and Zong Wa, deputy secretary general of the China Education Association for International Exchange (CEAIE) and executive director of the China Center for international Educational Exchanges, signed a “statement of intention” earlier this month, calling for both associations to “enhance collaboration and strengthen cooperation” with each other.
 
Karas was part of a U.S. delegation to China, during which Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Chinese State Councilor Liu Yangon agreed to strengthen ties between the two countries in science and technology, sports, culture and women’s issues, as well as education.
 
U.S. community college leaders interested in expanding their own networks with Chinese education leaders are encouraged to take part in an annual trip next fall led by James McKenney, AACC vice president for workforce, economic development and international programs. The trip, organized in cooperation with CEAIE, includes a conference in Beijing and visits to colleges in several different regions. (Details on this fall's trip are not available yet, but it will be similar to the 2011 trip.)
 
Community college 101
 
The Chinese college leaders’ trips to the U.S. were sponsored by CEAIE and its Vocational Education Leadership Training (VELT) program. Each group of about 10 Chinese community college leaders spent two weeks at a U.S. community college system, including Alamo Colleges and Tarrant County College District (both in Texas), Mt. San Antonio College in California and the Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology. As a result of the visits, several memorandums of understanding (MOUs) were signed to promote further collaboration.
 
The participants summarized what they learned at an AACC-led evaluation session facilitated by Don Newport, president emeritus of Alpena Community College in Michigan.
 
“We value our relationship with China and are looking forward to expanding it,” Alice Blayne-Allard, associate vice president of international programs and services at AACC, told the Chinese visitors. That message was echoed by Zhang Jin, senior secretary with the Chinese Embassy, who told the group that China wants to expand educational exchanges and collaborations.
 
The six Chinese college leaders who visited the Alamo Colleges met with the chancellor, top administrators, trustees and leaders of the five colleges operated by the Alamo system, said group leader Zhang Yunqui, president of Chengdu Aeronautical and Technical College.
 
They talked to more than 100 people, attended dozens of meetings, observed a class, a board meeting and a graduation ceremony, he said. They learned about the colleges’ partnerships with industry and instructional programs in auto mechanics, culinary arts, pilot training and more—and even had time to visit cultural and tourist attractions.
 
Yunqui summarized the key points about Alamo Colleges that the delegation would like to explore more to determine if they could be adopted at their institutions:
• The chancellor provides strong leadership.
• The college has a sound administrative system with clearly spelled-out regulations and procedures.
• The faculty and staff are held accountable.
• There are flexible pathways for students.
• The curriculum meets industry needs, and the college has close partnerships with industry.
• The college helps students succeed.
• There are various certification programs with varying requirements.
 
Yunqui was particularly interested in bringing a dual-credit system, a focus on lifelong learning, a broader international vision and an improved operational system to his college.
 
Efficient management
 
The Chinese education leaders who visited the Tarrant County College District (TCCD) spent the first week learning about TCCD’s centralized approach to administration and visited the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and the University of Texas, said Sheryl Harris, the college's director of program development and international education. During the second week, they spent a day at each of TCCD’s six colleges.
 
Wang Yi, president of the Xinjiang Agricultural Vocational Technical College, said he was interested in TCCD’s “highly efficient management system,” its “one-stop solutions for students,” including registration, financial aid and employment services, and its “in-depth cooperation with industry.” 
 
Other take-aways include the central role played by the board of trustees, the broad array of services that meet the community’s needs, the ability of each campus to develop its own programs, the use of part-time faculty who work in local industries and the value placed on cultural diversity, Yi said.
 
“It’s essential to have the right college mission,” he said, along with stakeholder involvement.
 
Another member of that group, Yunzhang Chang, assistant president of Shanghai Medical Instrumentation College, said he was impressed with TCCD’s facilities and with its management and governance systems.
 
TCCD signed three MOUs with the Chinese educators that call for the college system to send a team to China this summer to explore ways to expand exchanges. Yi said his priority in implementing an MOU with TCCD is to start with a faculty exchange and launch a cultural exchange with students next year.
 
The Chinese visit benefited TCCD administrators and faculty, too, by strengthening their cultural competence, Harris said.
 
“People at all levels learned how to engage and how to interact in spite of our differences," she said. 
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