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Friday, January 19, 2018

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DCC group makes Mauritius connection

By Kyle Vuille

Ranger-Review Staff Writer

Five Dawson Community College members embarked on a week-long journey to Mauritius on July 21. 

While the trip included swimming monkeys, exotic birds and fascinating cuisine, the real scope of the trip was to create a partnership with an international school on the small island set in the Indian Ocean.

DCC members who attended the trip were DCC Board Chairman Chad Knudson, Assistant Vice President Traci Masau, faculty member Dr. Christina Di Gangi, Enrollment Management Director Suela Cela and DCC President Scott Mickelsen.

Knudson said his main goal for the trip was to learn more about a partnership with The American Campus (TAC) so he could determine what is best for DCC, local taxpayers and his constituents in the community.

In their time on the island, the DCC group met with an official from the Mauritius Tertiary Education Commission to learn about the requirements and expectations of the courses DCC will be offering there. The Tertiary Education Commission gives the official stamp of accreditation for schools and universities in the country.

“The most interesting thing for me was meeting with some of the government  officials and agencies in Mauritius and learning from them the importance they place on education and developing themselves, their country, as an international hub in that part of the world for education,” Knudson said. “I understood going in that The American Campus wanted to bring in an American-style of higher education to Mauritius, but I had a much better understanding after visiting that aligns with the government’s strategic vision as well.”

Di Gangi agreed, saying that during her time in Mauritius she realized how much the country is trying to diversify their economy by straying away from the facet of tourism and trying to be more of an educational power.

Masau picked up on differences in the Mauritius education system and made the distinction of the second level education school year starting in January. The seasons are reversed because the island’s location below the equator. She explained enrollment would end up being lower in the fall, but could see an increase during spring semester, which is opposite of what schools like DCC experience.

Another distinction between the education system in Mauritius and the United States is most college programs are three-year baccalaureate programs so the American two-year associates and four-year bachelor programs are something new to the educators and students there, according to Masau.

A detail Masau and Di Gangi picked up on along the trip was the style of education Mauritius offers to their students. Primary and secondary education spans K-13 in Mauritius and during that time most educators give lots of lectures and tests. That method continues through university studies. 

According to officials in Mauritius, this leads to an educated but unemployable workforce because students aren’t taught critical thinking, collaboration and problem solving. DCC will  help add these “American” concepts to higher education in the country. 

Another prospective Masau touched on was the one credit Dawson Success Course the school will be offering to TAC. The course is dedicated to academic success in the American classroom. The course primarily deals with that conversational piece within the classroom  that students in Mauritius are unaccustomed to.

Mickelsen said the most exciting thing he took from the trip is that a small-time college in Montana is creating a partnership with a college on the small island of Mauritius. Mickelsen also elaborated this partnership would bring the first American education model to the remote island.

As far as the partnership between DCC and TAC, Knudson said the partnership model is similar to a franchise.

“My background is in business, it’s really a close model to the idea of a franchise in the business world where you have a third party who is building, investing, but what they are delivering is our product just like if you visit a McDonald’s, the shirts say McDonald’s, the food matches McDonald’s, everything matches McDonald’s, but it’s a private person who owns that particular location so that’s really the model we’re trying to apply to education,” Knudson said. “It’s an exciting model for education and I think that once we can prove that it works successfully in Mauritius, there are probably  opportunities to follow a similar model elsewhere.” 

Mickelsen emphasized the trip being a positive experience because of his interactions with the educators and staff of TAC. Mickelsen said he is excited to move forward with the partnership.

“The trip further solidified what we need to do to protect Dawson’s (DCC) integrity while taking the American education model to Mauritius,” Mickelsen said.

 

Reach Kyle Vuille at
news@rangerreview.com.

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