The Confucius Institute at Wesleyan College

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With mutual appreciation for the longstanding connections between Wesleyan College and China, especially through the legendary Soong Sisters, Chinese leaders and college administrators began discussing last spring the possibility of a Confucius Institute at Wesleyan College. A series of conversations with officials from the Confucius Institute Headquarters (Hanban), the Chinese Ministry of Education, and Guangzhou University helped Wesleyan design a program that would promote international friendship and academic and cultural exchange. When President Ruth Knox and Vice President Steve Farr met with officials of Hanban in Beijing in June 2012 to present our proposal, the partnership between Wesleyan College and Guangzhou University proved to be solid.  We received approval to establish the Confucius Institute at Wesleyan College that same day.    

Only a few months later, in September 2012, the U.S. Department of State awarded Wesleyan College a grant to develop an American Cultural Center at Guangzhou University in China.  With a ceremonial opening scheduled for May, Wesleyan’s American Cultural Center at Guangzhou University is designed to enhance mutual understanding between China and the United States by giving Chinese students and the Guangzhou community better insight into American history, philosophy, international relations, media, fine arts, community engagement, and life in America. 

The mission of the Confucius Institute at Wesleyan College is to promote Chinese language and culture; foster intercultural exchange with China among students, educators, and our community; serve as a resource for Chinese studies through its China Museum; and celebrate the historic connection between Wesleyan College and China in changing the lives of women through higher education and social action.  In addition to providing a variety of language classes, cultural programs, and travel opportunities, the Confucius Institute at Wesleyan College also will offer access to the art, artifacts, and documents in Wesleyan’s archives that are closely related to the Soong Sisters.  The timing of the Grand Opening of the Confucius Institute at Wesleyan College on April 11, 2013 is especially noteworthy – marking the 100th anniversary of Soong Ching-ling’s graduation in 1913 from Wesleyan College.

President Knox and President Yu Jianshe, Guangzhou University, serve as co-chairs of the Board of Advisors of the Confucius Institute at Wesleyan College. Co-directors Dr. Jiang Xiaoping, associate dean of the School of Foreign Studies at Guangzhou University and Fulbright Scholar, and Dr. Vivia Fowler, provost of Wesleyan College, will plan and promote the Institute’s programs and manage its day to day operations.

Located on the first floor of the Lucy Lester Willet Memorial Library, the Confucius Institute at Wesleyan College includes offices, a conference room, and a newly renovated classroom – with our new China Museum at its heart.  Still a work in progress, the China Museum contains silk tapestries, oriental screens, ornate rosewood tables and chairs, porcelain objects d’art, and other Chinese art and artifacts that are a part of Wesleyan’s longstanding history with China. This museum gallery also serves as a reception area to welcome visitors and scholars from around the world. Wesleyan’s China Room, located on the third floor of the Willet Library, continues to house original documents, photographs, correspondence, and other archival materials for serious study.  Many of the College’s Chinese artifacts were gifts from the Soong Sisters, while alumnae and friends have donated other items that include personal letters, tapestries, furniture, and art.   Improved access to Wesleyan’s Chinese collection for international scholars and visitors should be an additional benefit of our Confucius Institute.

Programs planned for the Confucius Institute at Wesleyan College include Chinese language courses for youth and adults, including Wesleyan students; summer camps in China; Chinese language and cultural art classes through The Wesleyan Academy of Lifelong Learning; faculty exchanges with Guangzhou University; and a variety of cultural performances that will showcase art, theatre, and music and celebrate holidays such as the Chinese New Year, the Lantern Festival, Spring Festival, and Mid-Autumn Festival. Eventually, the Confucius Institute may enable Wesleyan to add Asian studies as an academic program, further broadening the College’s international relations instruction and the potential for Wesleyan students to apply these studies to graduate programs or global careers.

We are honored to establish both the Confucius Institute at Wesleyan College and the Wesleyan College American Cultural Center at Guangzhou University.  Together with our partners at Hanban and Guangzhou University, we will enhance the global education and awareness of our students and their understanding of diverse cultures, develop strong international friendships, and build mutual understanding among American and Chinese students and their communities.