Instructor Dennis Brittingham and Student Affairs Specialist Audra Tillman have accepted positions that have them traveling across the globe as part of an $8.2 million agreement between the Technical College System of Georgia and King Faisal University.
The goal will be to create the new King Faisal University Community College in Abqaiq, Saudi Arabia. The associate degree programs the personnel from the Technical College System of Georgia will help develop include the fields of medical technology, business office technology, information technology and industrial technology.
Brittingham and Tillman are part of a contingent of 13 college faculty and administrators who will be taking on these new roles. The group leaves Aug. 27 and will start their new jobs Sept. 1.
Tillman, who works at Marietta’s campus, will be there for one year as a student affairs coordinator, said she’s excited for the new opportunity.
“I had thought about working overseas before,” Tillman said. “But I didn’t really look into it until this opportunity became available.”
Tillman will be working with only female students, as the college’s policies separate men and women in the classroom. She said she looks at it as a new challenge in a new culture.
“I want to be a part of this project that will develop a new college with methodologies and programs similar to what we experience here,” Tillman said. “In addition to learning from them, I’m looking forward to sharing my knowledge about student affairs and helping build something great there.”
Brittingham, an instructor at the Appalachian campus, said it will not be his first experience overseas —he lived in South Korea for nine years.
The New Jersey native said he is anxious to learn about another region of the world.
“I am looking forward to working with and getting to know the students,” Brittingham said. “That is something that I try to do in my classes now. I ask about their family, jobs and outside interests. Then I include that information in the lessons that I teach to keep the students engaged.”
However, he said that process might be more difficult in his new classroom setting as cultural differences, including religion, might present challenges.
“I will have to be careful about answering questions about my own life, experiences and beliefs,” he said. “I would not want to offend anyone or violate any rules or laws.”
Brittingham has spent his career teaching English at Chattahoochee Technical College. He said he was not interested the position right away, and almost shied away from it when he learned of the opportunity less than a month ago.
Brittingham said he eventually decided to apply for the position, in part because he will be part of a program spearheaded by former Chattahoochee Technical College President Dr. Sanford Chandler.
“At first I wasn’t sure,” he said. “I went home that night and thought about it and prayed about it.”
Tillman said she was also unsure about experiencing societal differences, from learning about the Muslim culture to figuring out if she’ll be able to get her usual toiletries. Fortunately, Tillman said her sister, who once lived in Saudi Arabia, has been offering pointers.
“I am looking forward to the experience and the possibilities that come with this chance in a lifetime opportunity,” Tillman said. “I know that it will be different, but I hear the area is beautiful. I want to learn as much as I can and I can’t wait to meet the students.”