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Confucius Institute revamps to align with ‘Realizing UB 2020’

Chinese performers

The Confucius Institute aims to expand beyond its traditional artistic exchange and community education role, which included bringing teams of Chinese performers to Buffalo to celebrate events such as Chinese New Year.

By RACHEL RAIMONDI

Published November 14, 2013

Jiyuan Yu, professor of philosophy, was appointed director of the UB Confucius Institute (CI) in August, and says he plans to revamp the institute to enhance and support Chinese studies and promote traditional Chinese culture on campus.

Specifically, Yu wants to take the institute beyond its artistic exchange and community education role and integrate the CI into UB’s mainstream campus life, academic offerings and research as an element of “Realizing UB 2020: Achieving Academic Excellence.”

Through UB 2020 — the university’s strategic plan — the university is pursuing ways to further globalize the university and its curriculum, enriching the experiences of all students and preparing them to navigate in an increasingly diverse world.

The Confucius Institute at UB opened in 2010 under the direction of Kristin Stapleton, associate professor of history and former director of the university’s Asian Studies Program. From its inception, the CI has supported and facilitated cultural exchanges between UB and Chinese universities, and notably, has brought teams of Chinese artists to Buffalo to celebrate Chinese New Year and other Chinese festivals with elaborate and well-attended presentations of Chinese performance art.

Under Stapleton’s direction, the CI also co-sponsored seminars and symposia, and established a Chinese language program through which native Chinese-speakers from Capital Normal University in Beijing come to Buffalo and teach Mandarin to K-12 students. Participants now include four Western New York school districts and seven private schools, and more are expected to enroll in the program.

Yu says he now is focusing the institute inward by creating well-defined educational on-campus and overseas programs for UB undergraduate and graduate students and faculty. This effort has produced new scholarship and study abroad programs, lecture series and language programs for UB.

Yu urges students to take advantage of the institute’s campuswide initiatives to make themselves well-rounded individuals by developing a better understanding of Chinese culture and tradition. He quotes Confucius in this regard: “I am not bothered by the fact that I am unknown; I am bothered when I do not know others.”

Another initiative is the new Distinguished Lecture Series instituted by the CI, which welcomes leading Chinese scholars to Buffalo to present lectures in their fields. Yu says UB faculty members from all disciplines are encouraged to nominate lecturers for the series, which began early this semester with a talk on ritual by Michael Puett, Walter C. Klein Professor of Chinese History at Harvard University. Yu points out that Confucius taught that ritual serves to unite people and strengthen the human community.

Yu also has been at work developing new CI academic offerings, including a new scholarship program for UB undergraduates interested in pursuing a PhD at a Chinese university.

The scholarship would cover tuition, a lodging-and-living stipend, in-China health insurance and round-trip air fare, all paid for by Confucius Institute headquarters in China. UB’s CI will facilitate the application process and recommend students. Applicants must achieve a test score of at least level 5 on the HSK (Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi), China’s only Chinese language-proficiency test for non-native speakers).

For undergraduate s who wish to study abroad, Yu says the CI and the UB Department of Linguistics will collaborate to expand Chinese language classes at UB, and develop a new two- or  three-week program at Capital Normal University.

He says that although UB already has several semester and yearlong academic courses of study in China, “This one will offer a less-expensive option for China study and will permit more UB students to realize the university’s goal that each UB student has an international experience.”

In another new development, Yu says the institute and the UB Graduate School of Education have agreed to offer a master’s-degree program in Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language, which will lead to New York State teacher certification. The proposal has been submitted to SUNY for consideration. If approved, the program is expected to launch in the fall 2014 semester.

“In a way, the CI helps bring Buffalo to China and China to Buffalo, which furthers the university’s service to its surrounding community,” says Bruce Pitman, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

UB’s Confucius Institute is part of a network of 300 institutes officially headquartered in the Office of Chinese Language Council International, also known as Hanban. Though the organization is affiliated with the Chinese Ministry of Education and is subject to general guidelines established by Hanban, Yu says the UB institute manages its own budget and is governed by a board of directors composed of representatives from UB and Capital Normal University, and chaired by Stephen Dunnett, UB vice provost for international education.

Yu says administrators of the institution welcome collaboration with the UB and Buffalo community and look forward to sharing their traditions and culture through more campuswide events.

For more information, visit the Confucius Institute website.

I would be interested in knowing what foreign language methodology preparation the native Mandarin speakers have for teaching in U.S. public schools.

 

My understanding is that both methodology and classroom management in Chinese schools vary quite a bit from L2 methodology and classroom management in U.S. classrooms.

 

I hope that the teachers are well-prepared for both before they come to the U.S. so that the teaching learning experience for all is successful.

 

Maryanne Burgos