By Philip Schueler
North Cross's relationship with Chinese schools, which could reshape the campus according to administrators, has grown ever since Headmaster Dr. Christian J. Proctor took office – mostly due to a rapidly expanding summer program.
This friendship has taken another big step after Proctor visited China again this past week.
Proctor travelled around China, recruited students, negotiated contracts and met with prospective educational partners, both old and new. In search of new revenue streams, Proctor visited China last December to expand connections with Chinese schools.
On his most recent visit, Proctor continued to search for a school in China where Virginian students can study abroad, in reciprocity for all the Chinese students coming to Roanoke. In fact, he found a summer program co-sponsored by UCLA near Shanghai that would welcome as many as 10 students for the price of a round-trip flight. (For more information, see Robert Robillard.)
Proctor travelled to a variety of cities and locations in China.
"It was a good visit. I went to many places; I flew from Shanghai to Hohhot, the capital of Inner Mongolia. I visited with a man who wants to start a school there; he's got some beautiful property outside the city that's a little more rural, a hundred acres of land that he wants to start a school on, which is right across a valley from a golf course and a ski resort. It's a more traditional American boarding school model, being out in a rural area," Proctor said. "Then from Hohhot I flew to Dalian, and Dalian is a beautiful city, sort of like a Chinese version of San Francisco, a lot of bays and hills. I met with a man there who also is thinking about starting a school, and also would like to invest in schools in the United States."
Proctor said that one of his biggest goals for the Chinese program is the ability to offer North Cross students opportunities and experiences, which can set them apart from others when applying for college.
"Ultimately I would love to have a very smooth ability to transition a student from here to China and back, so that my student can go and take his or her classes in China and then return. And they could be gone for a semester, and not have to struggle academically to catch up," Proctor said. "I think that's my biggest goal, so we can have students apply to college and have an experience that's different from the experiences of other students."
Proctor has found two schools, which are willing to partner with North Cross, one in Shanghai and the other in Suzhou.
"I went back to Shanghai, to a school called Xinhe, and that's the school in Shanghai we'd like to partner with. Xinhe is in downtown Shanghai, in a very nice location. From there I went to Suzhou, and visited the Suzhou Foreign Language School, and talked about a potential summer program there for our students. In fact, he indicated he'd be willing to host our students for about 10 days in Suzhou, which is a beautiful city for no cost. All our students would have to pay is the airfare, so I think it's a very reasonable way to visit China and for Global Studies students to get their Global Studies trip in," Proctor said. "This could happen as early as July this summer. Mr. Robillard is going to nail down all the details on that."
If a contract is signed with a partner school, North Cross will be responsible for managing a school program with an American curriculum at a private school in China. North Cross would be paid for its services, and students would be able to study and stay in China for a semester, without their academic curriculum being severely disrupted.
"The Xinhe school would be one of our first partners, and when I was in Suzhou I met with some folks from a school in Yiwu who I met with before, and if we can get a contract signed, those would be the schools that would be starting over there in September," Proctor said. "It is a realistic possibility, but the thing I've learned in negotiating with foreign countries is nothing is guaranteed until you get the contract signed; I'm optimistic, but I wouldn't be surprised if nothing works out."
Proctor also visited the families of Simon Chen ('17) and Peter Wang ('19) in Yangzhou. Proctor interviewed several Chinese students who hope to attend North Cross next year, and met with families who plan to send their children to the Chinese Summer Program.
While Proctor enjoyed his trip, he said he does not anticipate traveling back to China for several months, but Robillard may travel to the Xinhe school in May to develop relationships, recruit more students and explore the educational system there.
“I love exchanges of ideas, students and teaching,” Robillard said. “Hosting Chinese students has enhanced our school, and we can grow even more by going there. Cultivating the relationships with Chinese schools can certainly transform North Cross.”