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February 16, 2018

Dr. Sopcich delivers the keynote address at a conference in Pakistan on the concept of community colleges.

After nearly 50 years dedicated to transforming lives and strengthening communities through learning, JCCC has earned a strong reputation for academic and extracurricular excellence not only in Kansas City, but also across the country and globe. A testament to this is a recent trip Dr. Joe Sopcich, JCCC President, and Dr. Beth Gulley, JCCC English Professor, took to Pakistan in January, 2018.

Funded by a grant awarded to JCCC by the U.S. State Department (the second grant of its kind the College has received), Drs. Sopcich and Gulley traveled to Sukkur IBA University, located in Sukkur Sindh, Pakistan, and attended the Conference on the Concept of Community Colleges in Pakistan.

Dr. Sopcich delivered the conference’s keynote address, “The U.S. Community College Model: Its Role in Workforce Development and Community Education.” During his presentation, he shared the history of community colleges in America, how they operate, information about JCCC, and more. Dr. Gulley also got behind the mic and presented on developmental learning and the concept of learning centers.

“Visiting Pakistan was a great opportunity to represent the College and the United States. It was fascinating to see firsthand how they pursue higher education in Pakistan,” said Dr. Sopcich. “The quality of the university we visited was outstanding. They had excellent faculty members and staff, and were truly dedicated to their mission of putting students first.”

The nearly 300 conference attendees included faculty and staff from various Pakistani universities, as well as representatives from key companies and industries in the region. The end goal of the conference? Bring these leaders together to discuss how to create more community colleges across Pakistan.

The Pakistani education system

Community colleges are a new concept in Pakistan and very expansive, with several encompassing K through 12 and developmental education. Sukkur IBA University is the first institution to implement the concept and, to date, they have created 10 community colleges in the province.

“Sukkur IBA University is trying to generate a community-wide commitment to education, while being more inclusive of the community at the same time,” said Dr. Sopcich. “Ideally, having this feeder in place from the community colleges to the university will make the province that much stronger.”

A key component of Sukkur IBA University’s vision for community colleges is to make higher education more accessible for everyone, including women, agricultural communities and more.

Dr. Gulley observed, “Our colleagues in Pakistan are committed to helping their students. For me, one of the big takeaways was their interest in educating women and helping them find careers. Particularly in this area, the schools are doing a lot to support and prepare women for the future. It was a humbling privilege for us to go see how hard they work to make their society better.”

From Johnson County to Sukkur Sindh

Drs. Sopcich and Gulley’s trip to Pakistan is the culmination of an ongoing relationship with Sukkur IBA University that includes two grants from the U.S. State Department. JCCC was one of 22 colleges and universities – and the only community college in the nation – that received similar grants in south Asia.

The first grant spanned from 2014 to 2016. Sukkur IBA University was interested in strategies for increasing educational access to students who require additional skills to be successful in a higher education setting. Via video conferences, JCCC shared best practices for developmental math, assessment, writing and reading, as well as distance learning and early childhood assessment. Then, six Sukkur IBA University faculty members traveled to JCCC for a semester to shadow their educational counterparts.

Upon receiving the second grant in 2017, JCCC and Sukkur IBA University held additional conference calls, which resulted in Drs. Sopcich and Gulley’s attendance at the conference. When on-site in Pakistan, they were able to see the resource center concepts Sukkur IBA University adopted from JCCC put into practice.

Breaking down barriers

JCCC’s relationship with Sukkur IBA University not only elevates the reputation of JCCC and the U.S., but also highlights the benefits of sharing culture, ideas and best practices, all of which create more informed and well-rounded educators.

“One of the goals of the grant was to support and enhance faculty-to-faculty relations between Pakistan and the U.S. These types of exchanges are about bringing people together, and laying foundations for peace and understating,” said Tom Patterson, JCCC Associate Professor and Director of International Education. “Despite differences in language, culture and religion, our teams became fast friends. This relationship helps dispel misconceptions about what it’s like to be American and what it’s like to be Pakistani.”

Dr. Sopcich echoed this sentiment, describing the warmth, friendliness and sincerity of the Pakistani people, as well as their impressive commitment to their university’s mission.

It’s your turn 

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