Kaplan, Washington Co. formalize partnerships in China

November 27, 2009|By HEATHER KEELS

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- On a recent trip to China, Washington County Commissioners President John F. Barr formalized a partner-community relationship between Washington County and Jinhua City, in the eastern Chinese province of Zhejiang.

The relationship grew out of an agreement between Kaplan University's Hagerstown campus and the Jinhua College of Profession and Technology that was formalized during the same visit.

Under Kaplan's agreement, students from the Jinhua college will travel to Hagerstown to study business administration and accounting and will have the opportunity to earn associate or bachelor's degrees from Kaplan, said Chris Motz, president of Kaplan University's Hagerstown campus.

Motz, Barr and Larry Glenn, Kaplan's unofficial director of international programs, traveled to China from Nov. 4 to 19 to formalize the partnerships and to participate in the 2009 International Conference on the Exchange of Professionals, held in Shenzhen, China.


Barr said he paid his own way on the trip.

The group received a grand reception from Jinhua officials, and Barr and Motz signed their respective agreements Nov. 10 at a formal ceremony that was covered by area television and print news outlets, Motz said.

Talk of a community partnership with Jinhua began about a year and a half ago and Barr had been scheduled to travel to China to complete the agreement this summer, until swine flu concerns forced him to reschedule, he said.

The document signed by Barr and Jinhua City Mayor Chen Kunzhong states that to promote "mutual understanding and friendship" between their countries, Washington County and Jinhua City will strive for mutually beneficial "exchanges and co-operation in various forms in the fields of economy, trade, science and technology, culture, education, sports, health and personnel exchanges."

Barr said the Kaplan agreement is the only specific exchange that has been planned so far, but he said there might be opportunities for additional exchange related to Jinhua's manufacturing industry and Washington County's auto industry or high-tech companies.

The relationship is similar to the "sister city" program between Hagerstown and Wesel, Germany, Barr said. Primarily, the relationship will consist of sharing information and culture, and coordinating visits, he said.

Barr said he invited Jinhua's mayor to visit Washington County as a guest in his home, which the mayor seemed to take as a great honor.

Motz said China was very focused on development and becoming a world power.

"They crave everything that we can tell them and show them and give to them, and you can just see that they are using it to their advantage," he said.

Kaplan's Hagerstown campus, formerly Hagerstown Business College, has had a long relationship with China, forged by Glenn, that has included providing tours of Washington County agencies for various delegations and coordinating training for Chinese police officers in preparation for the 2008 Olympics.

The school works with Arlington, Va.-based U.S. China Business and Culture Exchange Inc. to coordinate the visits and cultural exchanges.

Kaplan had been looking for schools in China with whom to partner, and Jinhua College of Profession and Technology, a technical school that provides certificates, seemed like a good fit, Glenn said.

Many educational institutions in China are partnering with schools in the United States, Motz said.

"A degree from a United States university is such a commodity in China," he said. "It really gives them a leg up in the job market in China."

Under the new agreement, students will attend the Jinhua college for two years, earning a certificate, then travel to Hagerstown to pursue an associate degree, and can continue on to pursue a bachelor's degree, Glenn said. About 120 students will participate each year, he said.

The first group will be in a business administration and accounting program, but the schools are working to set up a similar program in information technology, Motz said.

The students will have to meet admissions requirements, including an English proficiency component, and obtain student visas from China, Motz said. Classes at Kaplan will be taught in English, he said. The visiting students will live in Kaplan's on-campus residence hall and in private apartment complexes, he said.

The first group for the program has been recruited and is expected to come to Hagerstown in fall 2011, Glenn said.

In the meantime, some teachers from the Jinhua college will come to Hagerstown for training, Glenn said. Eventually, Kaplan will probably send some lecturers to China, he said.

The agreement leaves the door open for Hagerstown students to travel to China, but Motz said he didn't think there would be much interest in that option because the Jinhua college offers only certificates, while Kaplan University students are seeking degrees. In addition, many Kaplan students are older than the traditional college student and have families, making studying abroad less feasible, Glenn said.

Still, Kaplan's Hagerstown students and the surrounding community will benefit from the cultural exposure provided by sharing a campus with Chinese students, Motz said.

"I think our students will find the work ethic that those students have to be a little unique, and I hope they will be able to grow from that," Glenn said.

About Jinhua

Jinhua (pronounced Chin-hua) is a prefecture-level city in Zhejiang province in the People's Republic of China. Prefecture is an administrative division ranking below province and above county.

Its population is about 4.5 million and it encompasses about 4,215 square miles.

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