The author with some students in China
Gillian McKnight-Tutein with some students in China.

Well not THE Amazing Race, but it sure felt like it.

If you’ve never seen it, the Amazing Race is a fast-moving competitive reality show where teams race around the world to accomplish assigned tasks. The race has several legs where the teams must navigate the locals, customs, and language, and get to the goal site by a certain time.

Community college delegation in China

Six delegates from five Colorado community colleges, representing the Colorado Community College System (CCCS), constituted our team. They were:

  • Patricia Erjavec, president of Pueblo Community College
  • Everette Freeman, president of Community College of Denver
  • Josh Baker, vice president of instruction at Pikes Peak Community College
  • Kevin Forslund, ESL coordinator at Red Rocks Community College
  • Jiansheng Guatney—ESL professor at Community College of Denver
  • And me, Dr. Gillian McKnight-Tutein, vice president of academic and student affairs at Front Range Community College

Tell the story of community colleges

Our charge was to visit schools in various provinces in China to promote the community college model and its value proposition to potential partner schools, students, and their families.

We were armed with our marketing materials, video greetings from CCCS President Nancy McCallin, and earphones for the 15-hour flight. First stop Tokyo. We were an excited group for sure! Missed connection caused an overnight stay. Somewhere I expected the host of the show to come out to give us our next challenge, but this was real life.

Busy, busy itinerary

For the next five days, we rushed up stairs and across platforms to board planes, bullet trains, and buses to visit our host schools in Xiamen, Suzhou, Shanghai, Jinan, and Beijing. We established relationships with area high schools and vocational schools, encouraging students from these cities to come to study at one of our CCCS institutions.

The students were exceptionally bright, and it was a pleasure speaking to them and their administrators about our Guided Pathways work.

Building connections

There is much that they don’t know about Colorado or community colleges. This trip was the first activity in a series of correspondence and visits meant to strengthen cultural understanding and build connections between schools in China and our CCCS schools, providing opportunity for students from China to come to Colorado and pursue their higher education goals with us.

We learned, too

While we went to deliver information to them, they also taught us a few things. I learned much about the complicated history, the complex culture, the changing landscape, the language, the food, and the desires of the students.

Now to get over the jet lag….

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