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PCC-WXIT Collaboration Ends After 11 Years

Following the first-ever PCC-WXIT joint graduation ceremony in 2012, graduates celebrated the completion of their studies by tossing their graduation caps into the air. The event took place on the WXIT campus in Wuxi, a city of six million that ranks as China's second-most livable behind only Hong Kong.

WINTERVILLE—A revolutionary educational partnership between Pitt Community College and China’s Wuxi Institute of Technology (WXIT) has come to an end 11 years after it was once thought to be a long shot.

On the morning of June 23, in a second-floor lecture hall on the WXIT campus 75 miles northwest of Shanghai, 62 students participated in graduation, including 43 who earned associate degrees in Mechanical Engineering Technology from PCC. Another 53 Global Manufacturing certificates from Pitt were awarded during the ceremony, along with commemorative medallions crafted by PCC Computer Integrated Machining students.

Representing PCC that day were Dean of Public Services and Fine Arts Dan Mayo and Student Support Manager/PCC Global Director Amelia Martin. Mayo, who accepted an achievement award on behalf of Pitt during the ceremony, wished the graduates well and thanked WXIT, a premier three-year technical college with a full-time enrollment of 11,000, for more than a decade of support and assistance.

Mayo said the partnership was also successful due to strong support from PCC leadership, the N.C. Community College System, Community Colleges for International Development, and UNC-Chapel Hill’s World View program. He noted that all of the costs associated with the collaboration, including travel, housing, instruction, supplies and administrative fees, were covered by WXIT.

“PCC was the first U.S. community college to offer this type of joint degree program, and we’re certainly proud to be pioneers in such a venture,” Mayo said last week. “This was a team effort by many at both institutions.”

It was Mayo who rallied support for the PCC-WXIT alliance in 2006. During a tour of China sponsored by World View, he met with Wuxi administrators to explore the possibility of an agreement that would give students at both colleges a chance to experience international education.

Upon returning from his visit, Mayo described WXIT as having modern facilities, motivated students, and proud faculty and administrators. He also noted its desire to connect with American colleges.

“I was certainly excited about the prospect of a partnership with WXIT, but I was also cautiously optimistic,” Mayo recalls. “I was well aware that a project of this scale was unprecedented and would present many challenges.”

Several months after Mayo’s meeting, a four-member delegation from Wuxi toured PCC as they gathered information on the American educational system. Mayo said that several U.S. and international colleges, in addition to Pitt, were seeking to partner with WXIT, which ranks sixth among China’s 1,300 vocational schools.

“It seemed a long shot that a small community college in eastern North Carolina, with limited international experience, would partner with such a big institution in China,” Mayo said.

He added that Pitt’s programming strength, quality instructors and overall atmosphere eventually led to a second Wuxi visit in March 2008. That meeting resulted in the framework for a cooperative agreement regarding mechanical engineering training.

An associate degree was formalized in 2009, and three years later, the PCC-WXIT partnership passed an important milestone, when 35 students from the Chinese vocational school received degrees and/or certificates from PCC. Wearing blue caps and gowns like their counterparts in North Carolina, the graduates participated in a special commencement ceremony on the WXIT campus that featured the playing of both the Chinese and U.S. national anthems.

Over the next five years, PCC would end up awarding more than 350 degrees and certificates to Wuxi graduates and hosting 30 WXIT faculty, administrators and students for long- and short-term visits.

More than 50 students, faculty and staff from Pitt visited, studied and/or interned at WXIT through the partnership. English Department Chair Sue Jefferson and Computer Integrated Machining Coordinator Calvin Mayo were the first PCC faculty members to teach at Wuxi.

“We learned from each other,” Dan Mayo says. “The program was ambitious, at times complicated and challenging, but it was highly successful.”

In addition to training, Mayo said the partnership served as a catalyst for internationalizing the PCC campus and curricula. He pointed out that funding generated through the pact supported international programs sponsored by PCC Global and the college’s Global Education Committee.

“I think our partnership with Wuxi fulfilled its purpose,” Mayo said. “It allowed PCC to engage in an unprecedented and complex international agreement. Everyone involved gained new perspectives on China, its culture, and the worldwide necessity of quality education.

“The official partnership may have concluded,” he continued. “But the emphasis PCC has placed on global learning and the friendships we established with Wuxi will continue.”

Mayo says PCC still has options for short-term exchange and campus visits with Wuxi.