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WKU signs agreement to become first Kentucky home of Confucius Institute

WKU is extending its international reach with the establishment of a Confucius Institute at the Bowling Green campus.

WKU President Gary Ransdell traveled to China this January as part of efforts to further develop Chinese Studies at the university.  While in China, he met with officials from China’s Office of Chinese Language Council International, or Hanban, to discuss the establishment of a Confucius Institute at WKU.   An agreement was signed by Madam Xulin, the Director General of Hanban, and Dr. Ransdell to establish a non-profit educational partnership to become the first Confucius Institute in Kentucky.

Co-director Amy Eckhardt said WKU was selected to become a Confucius Institute (CI) based on the strength of its proposal, the coordinated efforts of the university and the city and county leadership, and the personal commitment and support of Dr. Ransdell and Provost Barbara Burch.  Following their visit to WKU, Mr. Liu Jiangyi, Second Secretary of the Education Office in the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in the United States said, “We were deeply impressed by the passion, support, cohesiveness of WKU staff to the Confucius Institute and the Chinese program.”

Hanban will contribute $150,000 in startup funds, 3,000 volumes of books, videos, and other materials, and a multi-media exhibit, valued at up to 1,000,000 RMB (approximately $150,000 U.S.).  With the support of the Chinese Embassy, its partner school, the Sichuan International Studies University, and the University of Maryland Confucius Institute (the oldest CI in the U.S.), WKU becomes the newest member of the Confucius Institute family.

“We are honored to be named as Kentucky’s first Confucius Institute,” Dr. Ransdell said. “We understand that Chinese is quickly becoming a world language, and we embrace the responsibility to help bring the language and culture into Kentucky’s schools and communities.  This is an important step in achieving our vision to become a leading American University with international reach.”

Under the leadership of its co-directors Eckhardt and Dr. Liping Chen, the WKU CI will serve as a platform to promote Chinese language acquisition and cultural exchange throughout the Commonwealth and serve as a resource for the region.  Planning has already begun to start new Chinese language programs in Bowling Green and Warren County schools, Eckhardt said.

According to Eckhardt, the WKU CI:

  • Engages in outreach to local educational institutions, businesses, government and community members, building partnerships with educational and community organizations to offer cultural programming, language education and K-12 summer programs and partnering with businesses to offer cultural and language training.
  • Provides teacher training and certification for aspiring language teachers, professional development for established language teachers, and language proficiency exams for students, teachers and the community.
  • Works in concert with the Sichuan International Studies University, located in Chongqing, China, to offer student and faculty exchange programs.
  • Encourages WKU students to travel and study in China by offering study abroad scholarships.
  • Works to strengthen library holdings of scholarly work on China to both encourage the creation of, and engagement with, scholarly work on China.
  • Develops online language and content courses.
  • Enhances understanding and appreciation for the Chinese language and culture by sponsoring exhibits, performances (music, opera, theater), and an artist-in-residence program.

The addition of the Confucius Institute significantly increases WKU’s resources in the area of Chinese language and culture.  Last Spring WKU was awarded two federal grants worth almost $750,000 to build a four-year Chinese language program and support the development of an Asian Religions and Cultures Major through The Language Flagship of the National Security Education Program and the Undergraduate International Studies and Foreign Language through the U.S. Department of Education.

WKU’s Flagship curriculum promotes professional fluency in Mandarin Chinese by graduation.  Through dynamic integration of Chinese language instruction in every stage of the undergraduate educational path, these programs are designed to bring talented students who start with no knowledge of Chinese up to Superior levels of proficiency by the time they graduate from college.

“These programs seek to promote the learning and appreciation for the Chinese language and culture through a variety of activities within the university and to the greater community through outreach activities aimed at area schools, businesses, institutions and organizations,” Dr. Ransdell said. “As technology and trade continue to make our world a smaller place, the ability to understand other cultures and communicate with them becomes increasingly more important and we have to do all that we can as we prepare the future leaders.”

For more information, contact:

Amy Eckhardt, Director of the Office of Scholar Development and Administrative Director of the Chinese Flagship Institute, at amy.eckhardt@wku.edu or 270-745-2081

Liping Chen, Ph.D., Academic Director of the Chinese Flagship Language Institute and Assistant Professor of Chinese Language and Linguistics, at liping.chen@wku.edu or 270-745-2837

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