KU's Overland Park campus to be site of nation's fourth Confucius Institute

KUEC News Release

LAWRENCE - The University of Kansas and China's Ministry of Education have announced they will establish a Confucius Institute, the fourth to open in the United States, at KU's Edwards Campus in Overland Park next month.

China's vice minister for education, Wu Qidi (pronounced WOO CHEE-DEE) will lead a Chinese delegation to Kansas on May 4 for a dedication ceremony at the Edwards Campus, 12600 Quivira Road.

The Confucius Institute at KU will serve communities, businesses, schools, government, nonprofit organizations and the media throughout Kansas, the Great Plains region and the United States by offering community-based Chinese language instruction, supporting the training and professional development of Chinese language teachers and promoting outreach programs on Chinese culture. KU's Confucius Institute will occupy several offices in Regnier Hall and offer courses starting this fall.

Bill Tsutsui, center, professor of history, will be the executive director of KU's Confucius Institute. Nancy Hope, associate director of the Center for East Asian Studies, left; and Sheree Willis, program associate for the Center for East Asian Studies, right, will both be associate executive directors. "KU was one of the first universities in this nation to establish direct exchange programs in China,” said Chancellor Robert Hemenway. "Having the Confucius Institute here reflects the strength of KU's connection to China as well as our superb and extensive Chinese and East Asian programs. This will give this state and region a competitive advantage now as China is emerging as a leading economic force in the world.”

China has rapidly risen up the ranks in the past few years to become the third leading buyer of Kansas products, purchasing more than 0 million in Kansas goods and services in 2005, according to the state Department of Commerce. The state also opened its first office in Beijing last fall during Gov. Kathleen Sebelius' trade mission to China.

China plans to create 100 Confucius Institutes worldwide by 2010 to increase trade and tourism and to encourage better understanding of Chinese language and culture. The first three Confucius Institutes in the U.S. opened at the University of Maryland, the Chicago Public Schools system and New York's China Institute. Confucius was a fifth-century BCE Chinese philosopher and teacher whose thought shaped traditional and modern Asian culture.

KU, which enrolls more than 200 Chinese students, was selected as a site because of "its historic commitment to studying China and its extensive outreach programs related to East Asia,” said Bill Tsutsui, who will serve as the institute's executive director.

Tsutsui is an associate professor of history and director of KU's Freeman Foundation Undergraduate Asian Studies Initiative programs and the Kansas Consortium for Teaching About Asia at the KU Center for East Asian Studies in Lawrence. Assisting Tsutsui will be associate executive directors Nancy Hope and Sheree Willis. Hope is associate director of KU's Kansas Consortium for Teaching about Asia, Kansas Asia Scholars and Kansas Asia Community Connection. Willis is the China program director for the Kansas Asia Scholars program. She was previously a Chinese-English interpreter and translator for more than 10 years and a Foreign Service Officer with the U.S. Department of State.

"The Confucius Institute is a tremendous opportunity to build new bridges of cultural understanding between China and Kansas," Tsutsui said. "The institute's public programs in Chinese language, culture and business practices will help Kansans master the challenges and opportunities of our increasingly integrated world."

KU's academic programs in Chinese and East Asian studies:

  • The Center for East Asian Studies, founded in 1959, is the only federally funded (Title VI) National Resource Center in East Asian Studies between the Mississippi River and California. KU was one of the first U.S. universities to establish direct exchange programs with universities in China, with exchanges initiated in the early 1980s with Nankai University in Tianjin, Nanjing University and Zhengzhou University in Henan Province. KU students also study at several other Chinese universities through the Office of Study Abroad. Through the Kansas Asia Scholars program and the School of Business study abroad programs, KU undergraduates and graduate business students also travel to China on short-term study abroad programs.
  • Sixteen members of the KU faculty have research specializations in Chinese fields, and KU China scholars travel frequently to China to conduct research, give lectures or participate in workshops. KU faculty have conducted research in rural village elections in Shaanxi Province, archaeology in Henan Province and linguistics in Qinghai Province. KU faculty in other fields also have joint research, conferences and other academic projects with the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the leading schools of engineering and business, and other academic organizations.
  • The Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures, founded in 1961, offers four levels of Chinese language and has 90 students enrolled in Chinese language classes. KU students can earn bachelor's or master's degrees in Chinese language and literature or Chinese language and culture. Students can also take courses on China in many departments and schools, such as art history, business and political science. The doctorate with a Chinese specialization can be earned in history, art history, political science and anthropology.
  • The University Libraries have a full-time Chinese librarian and an extensive collection of publications in Chinese.
  • More than 200 students from China (including Hong Kong and Macau) are on campus this fall.
  • The KU Wind Ensemble performed in May and June in Beijing, Chengdu and Kunming at the invitation of the Chinese government, and KU faculty members have been invited back to teach at the Conservatories of Music in Beijing, Chengdu and Kunming.

K-12 outreach activities:

  • In addition to advancing the study of China within the university, the Center for East Asian Studies has an extensive outreach program that brings the study of China to K-12 classrooms and community organizations in Kansas and Missouri. 
  • With more than million in grants by the Freeman Foundation, the Freeman Programs at the Center for East Asian Studies offer intensive seminars for K-12 teachers on ways to incorporate Asia into their classrooms and are developing exchange partnerships between school districts in Kansas and Missouri and schools in China. This initiative also included the sponsorship and organization of a delegation of Kansas and Missouri education leaders to China in November 2004 to study China's educational system and establish partner relationships. As a result of that visit, three Kansas school districts and one Missouri school district now have established partnerships with schools in China. KU recently hosted a delegation of secondary school educators from Henan who were in Kansas to visit partner schools in Shawnee Mission, Olathe and Lansing.


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