Pace Confucius Institute turns 4

Updated: 2013-05-06 11:23

By Caroline Berg in New York (China Daily)

  Print Mail Large Medium  Small 分享按钮 0

In 2009, Pace University became the first university in New York City to open a Confucius Institute, and on Saturday, guests gathered for an on-campus birthday party in Manhattan’s financial district.

"We're really expanding," Nira Herrmann, dean of the Dyson College of Arts and Sciences at Pace, said in a speech at the celebration. "The Confucius Institute, on its fourth anniversary, has really made an impact on Pace, as well as our community and on our programming."

Guests mingled around a calligraphy table and a buffet before a program that Confucius Institute teacher Xiaojun Wang began with a brief language lesson. The 80 or so attendees learned to say in Chinese: "We wish the Confucius Institute a happy birthday".

Following the lively lesson, Ann Lee, an adjunct professor of economics and finance at New York University, gave a speech based on her book What the US Can Learn from China: An Open-Minded Guide to Treating Our Greatest Competitor as Our Greatest Teacher.

"I thought her talk was exactly the kind of event we were hoping that the Confucius Institute would lead to - that it [the institute] would really become a source of intellectual conversation and inspiration," Herrmann said of Lee's speech. "Whether you agree with everything or not, the fact that we're here talking about it is really important."

Herrmann said that besides a variety of credit-earning and non-credit language classes, the institute now offers a program to supplement its elementary-Chinese classes: Students gather for an hour every week to practice conversation with native speakers and play games.

'For many of our students, this is really a brain exercise to wrap their heads around a language that's so different," she said at the celebration, which also included a presentation of awards to 19 students who had completed 36 hours of Chineselanguage training.

The institute is also helping the New York facilitate the second year of a program to train Pace faculty to incorporate aspects of Chinese language or culture into their classes, regardless of the subject.

During the spring-semester portion of the faculty seminar program, participants learn Chinese and travel to China to interact with their counterparts at Pace's Confucius Institute partner, Nanjing Normal University.

Touring the Nanjing campus "really gives them a feel for the language, the culture and intellectual connection with their peers", Herrmann said of the Pace participants.

In the fall, seminar participants prepare new classes at Pace to teach during the upcoming spring semester. The inaugural program resulted in about 10 new courses, according to Herrmann, including a five-course sequence in Pace's economics program that considers the growing importance of China in the global economy.

"We hope to repeat this seminar and also create moreformalized relationships with some of the universities in China" for educational exchanges, the dean said.

"We're really looking forward to strengthening our ties and deepening our understanding of Chinese culture and Chinese language, and having [our Chinese partners] meet us, as well, to have a deepening understanding of what the US is about on a person-to-person basis."