June 16, 2017 Melissa Lamar

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Students of the Connecticut Community Colleges (CCCs) are on a 10-day trip to Paris this month to participate in an “Environment-Energy Bootcamp” sponsored by the French Embassy in the U.S. and several partners. All four of the CCCs’ student bootcamp applications were awarded, and the four were among only 20 students accepted in a nationwide competition. They will receive credit for participation, and will share their experiences at their colleges when they return home.

The bootcamp is a send-off for the first formal study abroad experience for CCC students, as well as for the CCCs’ international education initiative called “CT CLICKs,” led by Tunxis Community College in Farmington, which launched the project planning several months ago. “Community college students are the least likely in the U.S. to be able to participate in studies abroad,” said Tunxis CC President Cathryn L. Addy. “We want to open doors to those opportunities for the students at all 12 of our community colleges,” she said, “to expand their horizons as never before, and to encourage them to evaluate information from new perspectives.” Cross-cultural communication skills are increasingly crucial, she said, to today’s economy. France is a Connecticut top trade partner, “so it’s a good place to start,” she added.

CCC faculty and their international faculty partners in France and Mexico are collaborating on the design of short course modules to integrate into existing courses they each will offer in fall 2017. Skill-building in critical thinking, communication, languages, cultural competency and social responsibility are emphasized. Each aspect is important to students’ academic and personal success, said Dr. Addy, and to employer needs in the global economy.

What do the four CCC students hope to achieve in France? “It will help me make a decision about which area of engineering I want to study,” said Elena Bolotova, 33, an engineering science student at Tunxis CC. “I did not know that France is one of the lowest greenhouse gas emitters among the industrialized nations, so I’ll have the chance to learn sustainable practices from the best,” said Bolotova, who came to the U.S. from Russia when she was 20. Commented Jesse Gutaukas, 21, “I’m a critical thinker….I’m looking forward to seeing how engineering is applied to practical problems.” A liberal arts and sciences student at Tunxis, Gutaukas also studies engineering science there. “I want to travel the world, make it a better place, better people’s lives, and help people learn and live,” he said, noting that he also wants to become an entrepreneur.

Dhrumil Shah, 21, agrees with his fellow travelers. Originally from India, Shah is also studying engineering science at Tunxis. “It will be a life’s learning experience to work on a project in a team in Paris with students of different backgrounds.” Matthew Stromberg, 32, a Norwalk CC engineering science student attending the bootcamp summed up this first international education opportunity for the CCCs. “France has birthed so much of Western culture, from the arts to political philosophy, to some of the greatest scientists and mathematicians of all time….It’s a real honor to have the opportunity to study abroad.”

L to R: Tunxis President Cathryn L. Addy; Jesse Gutaukas; Dhrumil Shah; Elena Bolotova; Matthew Stromberg; and Tunxis Professor Karen Wosczyna-Birch, who heads the initiative’s leadership team.

For more information about “CT CLICKs: the CCC’s international education initiative,” contact Leigh E. Knopf, Tunxis director of institutional advancement, 860.773.1356, [email protected]. Visit Tunxis at tunxis.edu