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Public invited to Confucius Institute's grand opening

Nov. 17, 2009

KALAMAZOO--Western Michigan University will celebrate its new "bridge" to China during a grand opening for the WMU Confucius Institute, set for 3 p.m. Monday, Nov. 23, on the main campus in the Dalton Center Recital Hall.

The event will include formal presentations, a photo exhibit, choral performances, and a short concert by a Chinese instrument ensemble as well as a Lion Dance performance. A reception will follow the opening ceremony in the Richmond Center, which is adjacent to the Dalton Center. Both the ceremony and reception are open to the public free of charge.

Dr. John M. Dunn, WMU president; Dr. Donald McCloud, dean of WMU's Diether H. Haenicke Institute for Global Education; Dr. Xioaojun Wang, WMU Confucius Institute director; and a small campus delegation traveled to China in July 2009 to finalize a set of agreements that established the Confucius Institute and cemented a partnership between WMU and Beijing Language and Culture University, China's premier international institution for language instruction.

The related five-year renewable agreements make WMU a formal partner in an international effort to expand the teaching of Chinese language and culture. The effort is under the auspices of the Office of Chinese Language Council International of China's Ministry of Education, known more commonly as the Hanban.

At the grand opening ceremony, Dunn will welcome a four-member delegation from BLCU: Professor Lujiang Wang, chair of the University Council; Professor Lixia Chen, director of the Department of Confucius Institutes; Yanchong Peng, deputy director for the President's Office, Legal Affairs Counsel; and Qian Wen, project manager. Cultural performances will follow the formal presentation of a Confucius Institute plaque and the exchange of gifts between the educational partners.

WMU's Confucius Institute was founded to provide new Chinese language and cultural studies options for WMU students and faculty and dramatically expand international opportunities for area K-12 schools and local businesses. Its goals include:

  • Teaching Chinese language and culture to WMU students and members of the greater community.
  • Promoting international cooperation and exchange of students.
  • Strengthening collaborations with local schools and community businesses to train teachers and offer language and culture workshops, summer camps, fine arts events and travel opportunities.
  • Developing students ready to meet competitive market demands.
  • Aiding WMU's development as a dynamic international university with strong ties to Chinese partners.

As part of the institute-related agreements signed in July, WMU's Chinese partners have financially sponsored six Chinese language faculty members to come to campus to help the University expand language arts and cultural offerings at WMU and throughout southwest Michigan. The six teachers from BLCU are Dr. Jiwei Fu, associate director for the Confucius Institute at WMU, Dr. Jinwei Peng, Han Han, Yiming Fu, Xu Zhang and Bin Liu.

In addition, WMU's library holdings will be enhanced, and the Beijing school will designate WMU as one of its major study abroad sites and begin sending as many as 30 students to study in Kalamazoo each year.

WMU and BLCU, the University's partner institution in China, have had a long relationship. Dr. Timothy Light, professor emeritus of comparative religion and former WMU provost, served as a visiting professor at BLCU in the early 1980s and Wang has been serving as a visiting professor there since 2002. In addition, BLCU's former president, Professor Lu Bisong, holds an honorary doctorate from WMU and WMU students have routinely studied at BLCU since 1998.

Administrative offices for WMU's Confucius Institute are located in the Haenicke Institute, which is housed in Ellsworth Hall. Academic offices for the Chinese professors who will serve as visiting professors to aid the outreach of the Confucius Institute are located in Dunbar Hall.

For more information, contact Jaime Leblanc-Hadley at jaime.leblanc-hadley@wmich.edu or (269) 387-3951.

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Media contact: Jeanne Baron, (269) 387-8400, jeanne.baron@wmich.edu

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