The VCCS International Exchange program is an international faculty exchange between the Virginia community colleges and comparable institutions of higher education throughout the world. Its purposes are to foster the exchange of information about the best practices in higher education, to sharpen the global perpectives of the participants, and to promote lasting international friendships and partnerships. Currently, the Exchange coordinates partnerships with the further education systems of the Netherlands and with Sunyani Polytechnic in Sunyani, Ghana.
The purpose of the exchange is to learn new educational techniques, to study the approaches taken by different educational systems, and to learn something of the history and culture of another nation. This broadens one’s intellectual perspective and better prepares faculty for an increasingly multicultural and international classroom.
The need for multicultural sensitivity and a global perspective is all too apparent here in the United States. The Latino population has reached the size of the African-American population and certain Virginia jurisdictions, such as Arlington and Norfolk, have students from more than 50 nations. It is equally relevant in Western Europe, as London and Amsterdam have become a world-wide melting pots. With the addition of institutions outside of Europe, formerly at Jadavpur University and currently at Sunyani Polytechnic, the opportunity for a greatly enhanced global awareness becomes possible.
The structure of the exchange is that every Virginia delegate is matched with a Dutch, British, or Ghanaian faculty member, preferably from the same discipline. The European and African delegates come to the United States for a two-week visit in October. Virginia delegates make their return visit to Ghana and to Europe in the last two weeks of May after commencement. Participants observe classes, interview administrators, visit libraries, and pursue other academic activities in line with their interests. Each delegate, as part of the application process, creates a proposal regarding what is to be accomplished. A library administrator, for example, may wish to study database systems, Internet usage, and on-line catalog systems. A French professor could see how e-mail pen pals and class trips can be used to make language learning more active. A math instructor may wish to study how group projects are used to acquire and present quantitative concepts.
The exchange uses the home visit concept in which each delegate stays in the home of his or her partner. This often fosters a rich introduction to the everyday life and social customs of the host country; it also offers enough “down time” to allow numerous opportunities to discuss educational techniques, aspects of culture, or national trends in higher education in depth. The home visit approach keeps the exchange inexpensive for the sponsoring colleges.
However, it does require delegates to be flexible, tolerant, and adaptable. Often, it results in lifelong friendships. The Ghanaian exchange varies slightly; Ghanaian delegates will stay in the homes of their Virginia partners, but Virginia delegates will be housed at the Sunyani Polytechnic Guest House when they travel to Sunyani.
While the exchange has academic purposes, during evenings and weekends, delegates have a chance to explore the cultural offerings of the country they are visiting; the websites listed on the VCCS Related Links page are designed to give delegates an introduction to the history and culture of the participating countries.