Chinese Institute may come to Kent State

Alyssa Conner

Students interested in China may be able to attend an institute at Kent State that will provide courses on language and culture by fall of 2009.

Vilma Seeberg, associate professor of International Multicultural Education, said the people involved in the institute’s development would like to get the license for the institute by May and open the Confucius Institute this fall. It will take another year to get all of the curriculum proposals, Seeberg said, adding that she hopes the new classes will be available by fall of 2009.

Seeberg will be the director of the Confucius Institute after the plans are finalized.

“We are in the process and are about finished with the application for the Confucius Institute,” she said. “It is not a done deal, we have not been approved yet, but we have a pretty good sense that it will be approved.”

Student suggestions

Randomly selected students, who knew nothing about the Confucius Institute, suggested classes they would like to see developed or show interest in.

• “It would be interesting to see courses developed around China’s fashion industry like the different clothing of the Chinese culture,” Kristen Finely, sophomore fashion merchandising major, said. “I think those type of classes would broaden my perspective in the fashion world and open some doors.”

• “Classes developed about international business would be interesting and beneficial to gain knowledge from the standpoint of the marketing teams in China,” sophomore marketing major Elizabeth Whiteman said. “It would only help me in the marketing field to have basic knowledge of one of the largest economically growing countries.”

• “I am thinking about going into business as a major, so learning more about the Chinese language would benefit me in the business world,” freshman exploratory major Patrick McCarthy said. “I would be interested in more of China’s business industry, how it has developed over the years.”

• “A class that I think should be developed is about the different media that is going around China,” said Mandy Benkalowycz, freshman visual communications design major. “Technology is so much more advanced in Asia and it would be interesting to see how people communicate throughout their country and throughout the world.”

• “Since I am majoring in human development and family studies it would be interesting to see classes on how the Chinese families deal with certain issues,” said Michael Factor, freshman human development and family studies major. “To have different views on how different cultures handle similar problems and issues could be beneficial to me in the long run.”

• “I think learning the Chinese language could help me in the future,” freshman exploratory major Jared Arlen said. “China is a growing industry, and I think knowing a second language can be an advantage to finding a job.”

• “I think the courses that would interest me the most would be the language classes,” sophomore psychology major Erin Wittstock said. “It would be neat if they developed classes about the origin the language came from and the history behind it.”

• “It would be really neat to see classes that are about how the Chinese dress and the development of Chinese fashion,” Alex Berens, sophomore fashion merchandising major, said.

The idea for the Confucius Institute came from the Chinese education ministry with the intention of providing information and services about Chinese education, language, culture, economy and society. There are over 20 institutes at universities across the United States. The Institute will be funded by Kent State, the U.S. and Chinese governments and partnerships with universities in China.

“There is a real resentment about losing jobs to China and buying cheap goods from China that people do not necessarily trust,” Seeberg said. “What I want to do is educate students to understand China as a country with enormous wealth of culture and background.”

Courses currently being developed include language, tourism and Chinese civilization. The language courses will offer levels from beginning to advanced and will be taught by two Chinese professors from Shanghai University in China, Seeberg said.

Seeberg said students will find job opportunities across the globe, so in preparation for that she feels the institute will benefit students by teaching them the Chinese language.

“It’s important to know China’s language and culture because the country is so big and it is an arising force economically and politically,” she said.

Philip Wang, associate professor in the College of Exercise, Leisure and Sport, said three current tourism courses will be part of the Institute and two additional courses are being developed.

“One of the possible courses is tourism terms in both English and Chinese languages, so when people travel to China they will have some basic dialogue,” he said. “The other class in development will be about tourism in China and it will be designed for business travels, so when they go to China they will have an idea of what to see and what the culture is like.”

Wang said the College of Exercise, Leisure and Sport has a good platform for program development and exchange for communication. He said the tourism program at Kent and in China is one of the world’s largest growing industries and the classes will only benefit students in the long run.

“So many companies are doing business in China, and learning the language and understanding the culture will help them (students) further,” Wang said. “And for our students really, we know this is a global competition, which is where the future is and where opportunities will be.”

Associate history professor Hongshan Li is also developing courses for the institute.

“I am going to offer a Chinese modern civilization course that will be available for students by next spring, and I’m thinking about developing other courses like special topics on Chinese cultural relations with foreign countries,” he said.

Li said the modern Chinese course will cover topics on the beginnings of the middle 19th century, how China grew its economy and society and the challenges China faced in the modern world.

Both Wang and Li said they will teach some of the courses, but it has not yet be determined who will teach the other classes.

An additional course that is in the process of being developed is in the theater department.

Seeberg said she anticipates working with different departments at Kent State that will be able to offer their applied areas to the Confucius Institute.

“We are at the beginning stages right now and we have been able to talk to all of the colleges about the China initiative, but we have not sat down to work out schedules with them because we want to be sure we have the application approved,” she said.

Seeberg said departments are showing interest in the Confucius Institute and hopes to bring all of the resources together to make an impact.

Contact College of Education, Health and Human Services reporter Alyssa Conner at [email protected].