To China, with love
Butte College signs a historic deal with educators on the other side of the world
Butte College proved true the old adage, “It’s not what you know but who you know,” by signing an international education deal with China in October that other organizations have been waiting for years to set up.
A delegation of five Butte College administrators and professors traveled to China to establish a relationship that would create study-abroad programs for both Butte College students in China and Chinese students at Butte College.
And it was all arranged by Dakuan “Duke” Sun, a Butte College mathematics professor, who previously worked for the Chinese Ministry of Education and the National People’s Congress (NPC) for 15 years. Many of Sun’s former colleagues work for the Chinese Service Center for Scholarly Exchange (CSCSE) and the China Education Association for International Change (CEAIC). Through these connections, Sun was able to set up meetings to discuss Butte College’s involvement in the programs.
“I made jokes, not entirely kidding with them, that ‘I helped your folks [many] years ago, and now is the time you help me and Butte College,” Sun said.
Among those who made the trek to China were the school’s president, Diana Van Der Ploeg, and Les Jauron, the vice president of information and planning. The meetings would not have been possible without Sun’s expertise, Jauron said.
“It’s like this everywhere,” Jauron said. “It’s all about the relationships.”
While Butte College was able to walk right in, other larger organizations have been waiting for years. The American Association of Community Colleges has been trying to set up a meeting with CSCSE for several years, Jauron said.
The delegation from Butte College spent 10 days in Beijing in mid-October, meeting with representatives from CSCSE and CEAIC. Representatives also had the opportunity to visit Beijing Normal University, a teaching college, and Beijing City University, which focuses on vocational training. The group’s meeting schedule was so jam-packed, Sun said, he felt sorry for those who went.
Butte College officials hope to establish a “sister school” agreement with the universities visited, enabling them to recruit more Chinese students. There are currently 15 studying at Butte College.
Another program Jauron is excited about is the possibility of a summer camp that would offer classes on language and culture at Butte College for 11th-graders from China.
Butte College also hopes to set up programs for Butte College students to study in China.
“Having the ability to interact with people from different cultures is part of the college experience,” Jauron said.
During his visit, Jauron observed a burst of new construction in Beijing, spurred by China’s rapid economic growth. As China continues to rise as a world power, it is important for students to understand its culture, he said.
Sun agreed that it is important for American students to learn about the Chinese economy and culture. Noting that China accounts for a fifth of the world’s population, Sun likened the nation to a “huge airplane ready to take off.”
Studying in China would also allow Butte College students to come into contact with a completely different education system, and one that is rapidly growing. Since 1999 the number of students in higher education in China has increased from fewer than 5 million to 25 million today.
The Butte College Board of Trustees, which provided the nearly $14,000 necessary for the trip in the hope that valuable partnerships would be forged, will meet next month to discuss which international education programs it will pursue with China.
“This was a good investment,” Jauron said. “You have to spend money to create something for the long run.”