SUNY-Albany gets Confucius Institute center

Updated: 2013-12-04 11:41

By Caroline Berg in New York (China Daily USA)

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A State University of New York (SUNY) campus in the state's capital will launch a new Confucius Institute on Wednesday.

The agreement establishing the institute will be signed by University at Albany-SUNY President Robert Jones and Dewu Zhao, chairman of the university council of the Southwest University of Finance and Economics (SWUFE) of Chengdu, Sichuan province.

"We've noticed in the past five to seven years or so a growing interest and enthusiasm for Chinese language education, and an interest in China in an economic/business point of view in [Albany]," Anthony DeBlasi, associate professor of Chinese Studies at the university, told China Daily.

DeBlasi has been the "campus point person" in developing the university's relationship with SWUFE to develop a proposal for a Confucius Institute on the Albany campus.

"We've invited students from Sichuan province to study at many of the SUNY institutions in the aftermath of the 2008 earthquake," DeBlasi said. "Our working with SWUFE is a way for us to further develop that sort of SUNY/New York relationship with Sichuan."

The new Confucius Institute will promote Chinese language and culture and work with the university's department of East Asian Studies, SWUFE, and the Chinese Ministry of Education and Office of Chinese Language Council International.

Confucius Institutes are a worldwide network of non-profit public institutions aligned with the Chinese government that aim to promote Chinese language and culture, support local Chinese teaching internationally, and facilitate cultural exchanges.

DeBlasi said the Albany-based institute will join a string of other SUNY Confucius Institutes that span the state, including one at Stony Brook University in Long Island, the Global Center and the State College of Optometry in Manhattan, Binghamton in southern New York, and Buffalo in the west.

SUNY-Albany gets Confucius Institute center

"There were none in the capital district or in the upstate Hudson River Valley area, so we kind of complete that chain from Long Island out to Buffalo," DeBlasi said. "We're just getting started, but already we see possibilities for collaboration between the various institutes."

DeBlasi said the university has been teaching Chinese classes since at least the 1970s and perhaps even the late 1960s.

"We thought that [establishing a Confucius Institute] would be a good opportunity to expand out what we can do by reaching out to the community and offering specialized language programs," said DeBlasi, who expounded on possibilities like seminars on economic conditions in China, workshops on how to do business in China, as well as staging Chinese cultural performances, which he said would fill a larger community service element for the university.

"I imagine in the first year we're probably going to do some relatively simple things," DeBlasi said. "We'll organize some speaker series, we'll try to sponsor a conference, and then hopefully next academic year we'll ramp up to offering our first enrichment Chinese language classes that will be available for area high school students."

From there, DeBlasi said the next step would be offering Chinese business workshops for professionals, among organizing more cultural events.

"Chinese New Year is of course coming up in late January, so we'll definitely do something for that," he said. "We haven't talked much beyond that yet, since we're still trying to figure out what exactly it takes to get this stuff organized [with the Confucius Institute]."

Wednesday's ceremony will begin with an "auspicious" dragon dance at the campus's Performing Arts Center, DeBlasi said. Officials from the university, SWUFE, and the Chinese consulate will give remarks, and Hanban will unveil a plaque for the institute, which will be housed in a renovated suite of offices in the Humanities department building. Binghamton University's Confucius Institute of Chinese Opera will also give a short performance.

(China Daily USA 12/04/2013 page2)