KINGSTON, R.I. – November 24, 2006 – The Office of Chinese Language Council International, known in China as HanBan, has agreed to provide a Chinese language instructor to the University of Rhode Island for three years, the first time the Chinese government has sponsored a visiting professor at a university in the United States.
Based in Beijing, HanBan is also considering an application to establish a Confucius Institute at URI, a non-profit educational institute designed to enhance the understanding of Chinese culture and support the teaching of the Chinese language.
“This is a tremendous opportunity for the University of Rhode Island to expand our offerings and establish relationships in China that will provide a wide range of new opportunities for our students and faculty,” said URI President Robert L. Carothers.
The partnership between HanBan and URI was formalized at a ceremony last week hosted by Winifred Brownell, dean of the URI College of Arts and Sciences, with representatives of the Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China, prominent Rhode Island Chinese-American business leaders, and URI faculty and administrators.
“The start-up of this program will create more opportunities for URI to further cooperate and exchange with China,” said Counsellor Ai Fang-lin, education counselor at the Consulate General. “It will serve as a platform through which more American friends, and friends of all other ethnic groups, can learn about China as well. I firmly believe that this program will be a great success.”
HanBan will provide $40,000 per year for three years to URI to support the Chinese language professor, and it may provide additional instructors on a shared-cost basis if demand warrants it. At the end of three years, the agreement stipulates that URI will hire a full-time, tenure-track faculty member to teach Chinese.
HanBan chose to sponsor a language instructor at URI in part because the University is launching a Chinese option in its renowned International Engineering Program, whereby students major in a foreign language and an engineering discipline and spend a year abroad. The program’s first study tour to China took place in June 2006.
“China is the most rapidly growing economy in the world, and many companies are asking for engineering grads who know some Chinese and who have had direct experience with the culture,” said John Grandin, director of the program. “The Chinese government likes the concept of linking language training with engineering, as we do with our International Engineering Program, so they were happy to provide us with a visiting professor.”
URI’s new Chinese language professor is Wen Xiong, who started at URI in September and is teaching three classes in beginning and intermediate Chinese. Previously she taught for five years in Melbourne, Australia, where she recently completed her doctorate at LaTrobe University. She was formerly associate professor of Chinese language and literature at Shanghai University, where she also directed its Center for Teaching and Researching Chinese as a Second Language. At URI, Xiong will also be associate director of the International Engineering Program’s Chinese option.
URI’s links to China don’t end with the International Engineering Program, however. Other initiatives include the following:
– Contemporary China is the theme of the 2007 Fall Honors Colloquium at URI, the most prestigious lecture series in the state. The 13-week program, led by Professors Tim George and Yan Ma, will bring to campus numerous experts on China to increase the awareness of China and its role in the world.
– The Rhode Island Working Group on China, formed by URI faculty members in conjunction with the R.I. Department of Education and representatives from private industry, is laying the groundwork to compete for funding to create a K-16 Chinese language and culture program, based at URI.
– The Pacific-Basin Capital Markets Research Center at the URI College of Business Administration is the top research center in the country for research on Asian stock markets.
– The Graduate School of Library and Information Studies has established internships for students at libraries in China, and its U.S.-China Center for Research in Visual Information, Visual Literacy and Global New Media collaborates with professors at Zhejiang University.
The establishment of a Confucius Institute at URI would likely lead to many more partnerships and programs with China.
Wen Xiong (left), URI’s new Chinese language instructor, poses with
URI Professor Yan Ma (right) and Ai Fang-lin, education counselor for the
Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China.