ORLANDO — Efforts to empower and prepare Pitt Community College (PCC) students for success in the global economy began with a vision from three deans.
Although initial surveys on global education at the college indicated hesitancy to begin the work around globalizing the campus, college leaders and faculty have increasingly supported the internationalization of students’ learning experiences, PCC leaders said in a presentation at this year’s American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) convention.
Through strategic partnerships with regional and international partners, PCC has expanded its PCC Global programming and provided opportunities for students and faculty to study and teach abroad, participate in on-campus cultural programming, enhance their global awareness and have an internationalized curriculum.
“If we’re not giving them global exposure, we’re not adequately preparing them for the workforce,” said Katherine Clyde, dean of the Business Division at PCC. “It’s the same as if we don’t teach them to read or write or do math because when you go to work, even if you don’t want to go live and work in Paris or Beijing, you’re going to come into contact with international customers, international suppliers, international buyers. You have to have that cultural literacy and that cultural sensitivity in order to interact with other people.”
Some of the places PCC students, faculty and staff have traveled to include Belize, China, Mexico, Costa Rica, London, the Netherlands and Ireland. With PCC’s study abroad tracks — PCC Global: Explore or PCC Global: Serve — those who go abroad participate in academic-based programs or service-learning programs that enhance their understanding of their disciplines and foster cultural competency.
“There’s no substitute for studying abroad … but its very expensive,” said Dr. Daniel Mayo, dean of public services and fine arts at PCC.
In 2006, PCC established a student and faculty exchange partnership with the Wuxi Institute of Technology in Wuxi, China, making it the first cooperative agreement between a U.S. community college and a three-year, Chinese vocational college.
The partnership sent more than 50 PCC students, faculty and staff to the Wuxi campus and brought in 30 people from Wuxi to Pitt’s campus for cultural and educational engagement. Between 2012 and 2017, more than 350 degrees and certificates were awarded to students at both institutions, including an associate’s degree in mechanical engineering technology.
“We did this all at no cost to the taxpayers,” said Mayo, who added that funding provided to PCC through the partnership helped to spark and financially support further global education initiatives at the college.
Further, leaders heading globalization efforts not only established an International Education Travel Scholarship (IETS) program, but they partnered with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s World View program to help faculty internationalize their courses.
“Curriculum is the fastest track to internationalizing the campus and giving students another perspective,” Mayo said.
PCC students taking a government course may learn about immigration and how it effects the local economy; students taking calculus may learn about “rate of change” in population growth of other countries, for instance; and a Humanities 180 class provides students intending to go abroad with an understanding of the region, people and culture of their program destination.
Due to a PCC official’s service with Fulbright, leaders were able to leverage this relationship and bring Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistants to campus from Taiwan, Uruguay, Argentina and Mexico in order to support students’ global awareness and foreign language competencies.
PCC’s participation in the Scholars of Global Distinction program and also the launch of the International Education Travel Scholarship (IETS) program in 2010 allowed even more PCC students to study abroad and attend international events on campus. The IETS program won the college the Institute of International Education’s 2013 Heiskell Award for Innovation for “Internationalizing the Community College.”
“The IETS Scholarship has been a great equalizer,” said Clyde. And “what the Scholars of Global Distinction program does is provide an experience for students who can’t study abroad or an experience for students who are interested in doing just a little bit more, and it really helps prepare them — no matter their major — for the global workforce.”
Dr. Stephanie Rook, dean of arts and sciences at PCC, said she recalls being a student that could not afford to travel abroad during her time as a student. Now, she is dedicated to ensuring that all PCC students have the opportunity to receive a global education.
One student that Rook has worked with became the school’s first Gilman Scholar, after previously never traveling outside of the country or flying on a plane.
“Today, he’s on a fully-funded study abroad semester in the Netherlands,” Rook said. “That was in him, but he didn’t have the ability to do that. And that’s how we feel we’re changing lives.”
Tiffany Pennamon can be reached at [email protected]. You can follow her on Twitter @tiffanypennamon.