China, Riverland reaffirm partnership

Published 10:18 am Thursday, December 15, 2016

On Wednesday, Riverland Community College and the Wuxi Vocational Institute of Commerce in China reaffirmed their commitment to continue with an international partnership following a visit by two Chinese professors.

Riverland president Adenuga Atewologun and Chinese professor Cuiping Zhou co-signed a Memorandum of Understanding that said the colleges will continue to work toward future opportunities for exchanges. Zhou was signing on behalf of the president of her college, located near Shanghai.

Zhou, a professor of accounting, and Professor Wei Zhang, a professor of marketing, spent five weeks with Riverland staff and students in the study of the American business curriculum at the college.

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A farewell event was held in the college art gallery with business department teaching staff on hand to offer their goodbyes. With the help of interpreters, the pair thanked the staff and the community at large for its hospitality.

“People have been very welcoming,” said Zhang, adding that the pair would love to return in the future.

With Minnesota’s emphasis on establishing and strengthening international relations, building a partnership with the Chinese community college made sense — an opening of the door to future exchanges, said Kelly McCalla, interim vice president of academic and student affairs. Riverland could be positioned to be a “natural bridge” between foreign students and coursework they will take. Before the work, they must become better English speakers, and study the basics of American business.

Both can benefit from the partnership, as Austin becomes a draw for international students. The professors’ visit was a type of piloting of the idea. All agreed it was a success.

“If Minnesota is going to thrive, community colleges need to thrive as well,” he said.”We can be part of that.”

More visits will be planned, and it is more likely Chinese students will come to Riverland, at least initially, McCalla said. They have a better handle on English than American students do with the Chinese language.

Both professors said they were impressed by the relationships they witnessed between students and professors at Riverland.

“I like the atmosphere in the classroom,” said Zhang.

Gifts were exchanged between the visitors and the Riverland president, who graciously accepted a business card holder fashioned out of the native clay found in the area of the foreign college.

When asked about the best things they encountered in the U.S., their answers came quickly: They enjoyed seeing snow and really appreciated the smog-less air. China’s air quality is known to be less than good.

As a result, “the sky is so blue here,” Zhou said.