Mason Opens Confucius Institute to Promote Understanding of Chinese Language and Culture

Posted: January 6, 2009 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Catherine Ferraro

In an effort to complement the university’s existing programs and academic mission, Mason has sought and received approval to establish a Confucius Institute for Virginia that will begin offering noncredit classes to the public this spring.

Mason is the first university in Virginia to establish a Confucius Institute in partnership with the Beijing Language and Culture University (BLCU).

The Confucius Institutes are partnerships between the Office of Chinese Language Council International (or Hanban) and approximately 307 educational institutions in 78 nations. The purpose of the institutes is to enhance the understanding of Chinese language and culture. Hanban is also known as the Confucius Institute Headquarters and is headquartered in Beijing.

The primary objectives of the Confucius Institute at Mason will be to

  • Provide Chinese language and culture courses

  • Offer teacher training and professional development for pre-service and in-service Chinese language teachers

  • Support the study of Chinese language and culture in Virginia

  • Support cultural exchange and study abroad

  • Provide Chinese cultural programming

Mason Provost Peter Stearns and Madelyn Ross, director of China Initiatives, visited China in October to sign an agreement and meet with the deputy director of Hanban and the vice president of BLCU.

However, the process of establishing a Confucius Institute at Mason began almost two years ago when Ross, Susan Graziano, global grant coordinator, and Karl Zhang, assistant professor and director of Mason’s Chinese language program, met with the secretary of education at the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China to explore the idea.

Zhang and Cheryl Choy, associate director for the Center for Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, will serve as codirectors of the institute. They will be responsible for the academic component and will plan course offerings, lectures and other cultural activities and guest speakers.

“The establishment of the Confucius Institute will help to improve Mason’s already excellent reputation in China,” says Zhang. “Mason’s Confucius Institute will create a platform for us to promote academic exchanges in China and Virginia and assist local communities in developing closer ties with, and a greater understanding of, China.”

As part of the three-year agreement, BLCU will provide Mason’s Confucius Institute with two or three full-time teachers and teaching materials such as books and media software.

The Confucius Institute will also serve local businesses and neighboring public school systems by supporting Chinese language instruction and incorporating Chinese culture into a variety of noncredit classes in business, the humanities and the arts. Classes will be offered at Mason’s Fairfax, Arlington and Prince William Campuses.

Organizers hope to offer a Chinese film festival and reading groups this spring. In addition, the institute will provide training workshops to Mason graduate students in the Chinese language licensure program in the College of Education and Human Development, as well as teachers in local public schools. BLCU will also provide scholarships for students to study Chinese in China.

Several Mason faculty members will sit on an advisory board that will provide guidelines for the Confucius Institute. Members will include Richard Klimoski, dean of the School of Management; Jack Censer, dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences; Jeff Gorrell, dean of the College of Education and Human Development; and William Reeder, dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts.

For more information about the Confucius Institute at Mason, contact Zhang at 703-993-4231.

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