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By Olivia Jones
Confucius Institutes around the world offer exchange programs, summer camps, classes, events and competitions that all highlight some aspect of Chinese culture. Since 2010, UK’s institute has doubled its funding from HANBAN.
HANBAN is the globally accepted abbreviation for the Chinese Language Council International, which sponsors Confucius Institutes worldwide.
“There are 86 Confucius Institutes in the United States, and 99 percent of those are inside universities,” said Dr. Huajing Maske, director of UK’s Confucius Institute.
She explained that annually, each institute is given a certain amount of money to raise Chinese culture awareness.
“HANBAN has recognized our achievements, doubling our funds, because we have done so much more than the other institutes in the U.S.,” Maske said.
Some of the achievements Dr. Maske referred to include collaborating with different UK colleges, such as Arts and Sciences, Fine Arts, Business, Pharmacy and Design, and establishing student exchange programs.
“Students are selected go to Xi’an for the last seven weeks of the spring semester,” said Parker Fawson, a UK literary professor and associate dean in the College of Education. “Five went last year and 17 have been selected to go this spring.”
Fawson, who is curriculum and instruction chairman for the college, said those selected work as student teachers in the U.S. for eight weeks, then travel to teach in China as a skill development extension. Students stay with host families, spending their days in the Giaxon school system and eat meals with Chinese faculty and their students.
“It’s a growing program,” Fawson said, “and we’re excited to help UK students have a more global exposure.”
Maske said UK’s Year of China began in November 2011 and has comprised various academic, performance and symposium-related events.
“That’s a hard question,” Maske said after asked her favorite event, “because I’m so proud of everything we do. Every event is important.”
“Personally, I am looking forward to seeing all the submissions for the UKCI China Photo Contest this year,” said student Cassandra Hardin.
“It presents a wonderful opportunity for students to share their intercultural experiences.” Maske described past events such as the teaching of elements of Chinese cuisine and recipes from Panda Express, the Spring Gala featuring Hubei University students’ performance of the Lion and Dragon dance and the Chinese New Year celebration at the Singletary Center.
“All 1,500 seats were filled,” Maske said, “so we are holding the celebration again this year on Jan. 26.” The UK institute is also the first U.S. Confucius Institute selected by HANBAN to hold an esteemed training workshop.
“We received an additional $100,000 for our three-day workshop in November,” Maske said.
Maske said teachers attended not only from all over Kentucky, but from 16 different states as well.
“I’m very proud to be a part of such a hardworking team. Although we are young as a department, as a team we have already pulled together several outstanding projects that have been recognized by the university as well as our headquarters in China,” Hardin said.
“And HANBAN has confidence that we have the capacity and ability to do even more,” Maske said.
On Feb. 20, the Confucius Institute is hosting I Sing Beijing.
“HANBAN only sponsors this event for five Confucius Institutes, and we are one of them,” Maske said. “It’s a group of Western Opera Singers who are recruited by HANBAN, sent to China and trained in modern Chinese opera.”
According to the institute’s five-year plan, its goals can be categorized into three main tiers.
“We plan to bring distinguished scholars to campus. These scholars can range from Chinese culture experts to people actually recruited from China,” Maske said.
The second tier will include monthly speakers for China Studies faculty to discuss research and deepen UK’s awareness of Chinese culture.
“The last tier is our dream to have all UK faculty incorporate some element of Chinese culture studies into the curriculum. It could even be just one lecture, and we will find ways to support them,” Maske said.
She spoke of plans for a faculty exchange program working between UK’s Colleges of Arts and Sciences and Education, and Jilin University, where teachers will conduct a two- to four-week crash course in their areas of study. Another plan Maske discussed was a travel writing class with UK journalism professor Buck Ryan.
“Selected students will go to China and write about their experiences,” she said.
She said that if the students’ freelance writings are somehow published, the Confucius Institute will recommend their pieces to the Confucius Institute National Magazine that is published in 150 different countries, and features topics such as Chinese cuisine, fashion and other cultural elements.
The main goal, Maske said, is to raise the UK institute’s visibility.
“We want people to think of us when they think about China in the United States.”