First US Mid-West CI Directors’ Forum

Supported by the Education Section, Consulate-General of the People’s Republic of China in Chicago, and organized by the Confucius Institute at Valparaiso University (CIVU), the first US Mid-West CI Directors’ Forum was held at Valparaiso University (VU) on October 23. Attending this forum were delegates from eight CIs of this region, three Consuls of Education, and teachers and leaders from Valparaiso University.

Vice President Mark Schwehn making welcoming speech

  Vice President Mark Schwehn making welcoming speech

The forum was conducted in four sessions, the first two in the morning and the last two in the afternoon. In Session One, “CI’s Fortes”, Marian Maciej-Hiner, Director of the Confucius Institute at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, shared their experiences and practices in introducing to American people the cultures of the 56 ethnic groups of China. They were planning an exhibition of 100 full-color photos of China's 56 ethnic communities, which would include photos of traditional costumes as well as China's breathtaking landscape. They hoped to find CIs which would be interested in hosting such an exhibition.

Consul Wang Xiaowei making opening remarks

  Consul Wang Xiaowei making opening remarks

Yang Yiping, Associate Director of the Confucius Institute at the University of Memphis, gave a brief introduction to the delegates of their Asian Studies and International Trade program set up in 2007. Hong Wei, Director of the Confucius Institute at Purdue University, in her presentation entitled “Visibility and Impact: Purdue’s Vision”, related to the audience how her CI laid emphasis on value-added services to enhance its visibility in Purdue University and the greater West Lafayette area, with the view of developing their CI sustainably. The Confucius Institute at the Community College of Denver had its Associate Director, Gan Changyin, speak to the delegates on how they conducted activities to draw attention, and generate interest, of the local people, and to further help them to learn Chinese language and culture.

In Session Two, “Resources”, Meng Jianyun, Director of the CIVU, gave an account of their efforts and experiences in organizing music exchange programs between China and the US. He introduced to the audience two of his long-time collaborators, Dr. Jeffery Doebler, music professor of VU, and Michael Boo, professional composer of Valparaiso, both of whom reflected on their music trips to China and how much they enjoyed, and benefited from, working with the CIVU. “When I heard the music from a performance by ethic people in China, I couldn’t help turning it into notes for my American colleagues and audiences. Indeed, music plays such an important role in bringing cultures together that we can never over-emphasize the benefit of exchange.” Boo’s remarks were echoed by many present at the forum.

In Session Three, “Service and Communication”, Xu Zaocheng, Director of the Confucius Institute in Indianapolis, talked about how his CI communicated with the local people and institutions by making use of various mass media, and how it served the local citizens. Jiang Hongling, Associate Director of the Confucius Institute at Purdue University, shared their experiences in running Chinese language programs. Huo Yu, Curriculum Coordinator of the Confucius Institute at the University of Iowa, talked about their teacher training programs.

In Session Four, “HSK Testing and Performing Arts”, Zhang Zhe, Associate Director of the Confucius Institute in Indianapolis, briefed the delegates on how their newly-established HSK Testing Center was operated. He indicated, like the Confucius Institute at the University of Memphis, which had their Testing Center set up in April, 2009, that they’d be willing to be of assistance if any other CI had students who’d like to take HSK. Then Gu Ying, Chinese language teacher from the Confucius Institute at Purdue University, demonstrated, with ample examples, how the new HSK works and how their students did in the latest tests.

The last, but certainly not least, speaker was Joseph Lam, Director of the Confucius Institute at the University of Michigan. Speaking on “Understanding China through Its Performing Arts”, Lam convinced the delegates that through performing arts American students could come to understand, effectively, not only the superficial meaning of a body gesture or a facial expression but also its in-depth meaning, and that they’d thus get a better understanding of the Chinese language and culture.

Prof Meng speaking

  Prof Meng speaking

The tightly-scheduled forum left little time to waste. During lunch time, Kung Hsiang-te, Director of the Confucius Institute at the University of Memphis, gave a lecture entitled “Emerging China”. He communicated to the audience that China’s reform and opening up had scored unprecedented achievements in creating material wealth for its people and opportunities for the world at large. He also expressed concerns for the environment and resources. Liu Qiang, one of the three Consuls of Education attending the forum---the other two being Wang Xiaowei and Li Changhua, commented that the lecture presented a balanced picture of China and brought us to the awareness of protecting the environment and resources.

Prof Doebler speaking

  Prof Doebler speaking

After the lecture, delegates and guests witnessed the inauguration of the CIVU’s Chinese Culture Exploratorium facilities and Hanban-donated books to the Christopher Center, VU’s library. Rick AmRhein, Chief Information Officer of VU, spoke highly of the CIVU’s contribution to the cultural diversity of VU, making it an international university in its truest sense.

Mr Boo speaking

  Mr Boo speaking

Mark Schwehn, VU’s Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs, kicked the forum off by welcoming the delegates and guests on behalf of VU. Following the provost’s welcoming speech, Wang Xiaowei, Director of the Education Section, made the opening remarks. He expressed his thanks to the CIs for their contributions to helping local Americans to learn Chinese language and culture, and to promoting understanding and exchange between the two nations. He also emphasized the necessity of initiating such an occasion for CIs of this area to exchange and share experiences, which “will do a lot of good for the sustainable development of Confucius Institutes”. The forum was coordinated and presided over by Liu Jiangang, Associate Director of the CIVU.

Since the forum coincided with the final day of the CIVU’s Third Annual Great Lakes Confucius Institute Music Festival, in the evening the delegates were invited to appreciate the gala concert of the festival, which served as a living example of how the CIVU conducted its cultural exchange programs. Kung Hsiang-te, 75th descendant of Confucius, gave out the Zhiyin Award to Dr. Dennis Friesen-Carper and Dr. Jeffery Doebler for their contributions to the music exchange programs of the CIVU.

Group photo

Upon conclusion of the forum, it was suggested that:

1. The Education Section of the Consulate-General of China in Chicago help to set up a network of communication for the CIs in this region. At the same time, each of these CIs hyper-link the other sister CIs to its website.

2. The US Mid-West CI Directors’ Forum be held annually on a rotating basis; attendance at the proposed forums will be voluntary, though. The Confucius Institute at the University of Michigan will host the next forum, probably sometime in early or mid October, 2011.

3. The CI directors of this region find some time to discuss the events of the current year and to exchange experiences and resources, in conjunction with the annual CI World Conference in Beijing in December and the CIs’ US meeting in April or May.

4. Each CI of this region run a tryout Chinese speech contest and select its representative contestants for the final contest, which, ideally, will be held in a centrally located city, such as Chicago, which is more convenient for most of the students from other Mid-West states. The Confucius Institute at Purdue University expressed their willingness to serve as venue for the final contest in 2011.

The forum was covered by journalists from both the Xinhua News Agency and China Daily USA. The following are their reports:

“美國中西部孔子學院院長共商創新發展良策”

(http://www.chinesetoday.com/news/show/id/422856)

“Confucian way to spread Chinese culture”

(http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/usa/2010-11/12/content_11541252.htm

(Text by Liu Jiangang and Zhang Rong, photos by He Jun, Yu Hangxin and Zhang Ke, CIVU)