Portland State signed an agreement with the Chinese government Jan. 19 to establish a Confucius Institute at PSU, a nonprofit public center aimed at promoting awareness of Chinese language and culture at the university and in the broader community. Confucius Institutes are headed by the Chinese government and the China National Office for Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language, which is headquartered in Beijing.
PSU to establish Confucius Institute
Portland State signed an agreement with the Chinese government Jan. 19 to establish a Confucius Institute at PSU, a nonprofit public center aimed at promoting awareness of Chinese language and culture at the university and in the broader community.
Confucius Institutes are headed by the Chinese government and the China National Office for Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language, which is headquartered in Beijing. The first institute opened in Seoul, Korea in November 2004. Since then, 44 more institutes have opened worldwide, including 11 in the United States. The closest institute to PSU is located at San Francisco State University.
“We’re very proud to be the second Confucius Institute on the West Coast,” said Gil Latz, vice provost of international affairs at PSU.
The institute will be directly affiliated with the Institute for Asian Studies at PSU. The Chinese government will provide 5,000 library materials and $30,000 for events and the development and administrative costs of the program. They will provide funding for a visitor from Suzhou University (PSU’s sister school in China) who will teach at the institute, as well as the establishment of an outreach program to include Portland K-12 public schools and other universities, said Patricia Wetzel, director for the Institute of Asian Studies and professor of Japanese at PSU.
The institute will eventually have a director and administrative assistant, Wetzel said. The costs not covered by the Chinese government will be supplemented by funding from the PSU College of Arts and Sciences.
An opening ceremony is planned to take place in May, which will include visitors from the Suzhou Chinese government, Portland city officials, state representatives and top university administrators. In April, the new institute will host a training workshop at PSU for teaching Chinese. The workshop will welcome educators from Portland Public Schools and the University of Oregon.
Nearly half of the international students at PSU come from Asian nations, said Latz, with China yielding the second largest number of students. Latz said that Chinese relations are a large part of university President Daniel Bernstine’s Internationalization Initiative, which focuses on broadening PSU’s understanding of and involvement in the campus and global communities by way of curricular integration, opportunities to travel abroad and increasing international presence on campus.
“It’s a great asset to the university,” Wetzel said about the institute. She said the program will be a great resource for students interested in Asian studies and she hopes it will increase the opportunity for students to study abroad in China.
Most Confucius Institutes are affiliated with universities, though some are directly linked to secondary education institutes. Wetzel said she believes that Portland Public Schools will be able to strengthen their Chinese immersion program through the resources provided by PSU’s institute. As part of the Chinese government’s education initiative, it plans to establish 100 institutes worldwide, according Wetzel.
Courses open to all community members on Chinese culture for business and travel should be available by summer 2007. Chinese is currently offered as a major and a minor. Language classes are offered up to a third year of study. According to Latz, the program is strong and they hope to offer additional classes in the future.