Lees-McRae College is looking a half-world away to expand the scope of the learning experience at the Banner Elk campus, seeking to interact more with China. And in the process, the school is looking at the huge expansion in China to be a part of the changing scope of the school, which may seek to become a university in the near future.  Those points were brought out in a meeting on the Lees-McRae campus yesterday hosted by the Banner Elk Kiwanis club, with Lees-McRae president Dr. Barry Buxton telling of his recent trip to China, seeing a new scale of development, “This growth in China and this modernization following Mao has really raised millions of people out of poverty and is creating a booming middle class there, much like the booming middle class created here a few decades ago.” Buxton traveled to China with Professor Marv Williamsen, Director of International Programs and professor of Chinese history at Lees-McRae, and returned seeing amazing growth and amazing trouble from it, “Along with modernization has come an environmental crisis the likes of which the world has never known. This is due to the sheer size of China’s population and their heavy dependence on coal. We had several days there where we could not see 100 yards.”  And he said, “There were some days where people were wearing masks for breathing, and it was frightening.” Buxton said the primary intent of the trip was to develop new contacts and connections and to negotiate agreements for cooperation between Lees-McRae College and educational institutions in China. Buxton marveled at the shortening of the trip, now a14-hour flight from New York, landing at the largest air terminal in the world—one to be soon replaced by one even larger. But while there is much change, there are also values in the Chinese, “Hard work, respect for elders, kindness, simplicity, reverence for history, openness for change, silence.”  Buxton said his goal is to share information on the China he experienced and to bring Chinese students to Lees-McRae College, “We have signed agreements that could bring as few as 25 and as many as 100 students to Lees-McRae.” He also said that Chinese students consider ‘college’ a two year education, and that in taking on this international expansion, it may be necessary to expand the scope of Lees-McRae to university status in the very near future.