GRU's new Confucius Institute offers an immersion into Chinese culture

 

As a native Augustan and fourth-generation Chinese-American, I am excited about the opening of the Georgia Regents University Confucius Institute on March 28.

What is a CI? As China’s economy began to see rapid growth about 10 years ago, it recognized that there was a tremendous increase in the world’s demand for Chinese learning. Seeing the success of other nations benefiting from promoting their national language (the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Spain), China established nonprofit public institutions in partnership with leading universities to promote Chinese language and culture in foreign countries. These were named Confucius Institutes.

 

IN JULY 2013, GRU’s application for a CI was granted, making it the newest of about 400 worldwide CIs. GRU’s CI is the first to be affiliated with a comprehensive academic health center, and the first in the Western Hemisphere with a focus on traditional Chinese medicine.

Each CI has its own goals and mission. The mission of the GRU CI will be to establish a comprehensive academic center for the study of Chinese language and culture; to enhance multicultural awareness through Chinese
language and culture program
for children and adults in the Augusta community; and to create an international program of distinction in traditional Chinese medicine.

The CI is part of GRU’s strategy of becoming an internationally recognized leader in education, research and scholarship. The CI will allow GRU to offer academic programs in Chinese language, arts and cultural studies. The CI will establish GRU as a national leader in traditional Chinese medicine programs. Traditional Chinese medicine originated in ancient China and has evolved over thousands of years. Its practitioners use herbal medicines and various mind and body practices, such as acupuncture and t’ai chi, to treat or prevent health problems.

Our educational, business and cultural community will benefit from the CI programs and resources. GRU College of Education students will partner with K-12 schools in the Augusta area to teach Chinese arts, culture and language with a program curriculum that encourages multicultural awareness. The business community can learn more about Chinese culture and customs as they move to forge relationships with Chinese companies. And the cultural community will benefit from the programs and resources that the CI have and can bring to the community.

 

OUR LOCAL CHINESE community also will benefit. There are several Chinese organizations in our community: the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association (CCBA); the CSRA Chinese Association; the GRU Chinese Scholars and Students Association; a Chinese school and a Chinese church. GRU President Ricardo Azziz was aware early on in his tenure here of the long history of the Chinese in Augusta, a presence that dates to the 1870s when Chinese immigrants were contracted to help enlarge the Augusta Canal.

This history and the cultural benefits to the local Chinese community – many of whom are students, faculty and staff at GRU – also played a factor in his desire to bring a CI to GRU. The CI’s language and cultural activities and programs will provide a tremendous resource to the Chinese community to help our children learn about our long, rich heritage.

 

I WAS FORTUNATE to be asked to serve on the CI application committee and saw firsthand the vision, mission and commitment that the GRU leadership has put into the Confucius Institute. On behalf of the CCBA, we would like to extend our congratulations and appreciation to Dr. Azziz and his leadership team. We are excited about the opportunities and benefits the Confucius Institute will bring to the entire community.

As we all become a part of
the great American melting pot with the arrival of each new
generation, we all lose a little of our cultural identity and traditions, and it is important to have resources to help each new generation learn about their rich heritage. On behalf of the Chinese community – and from me personally, having a young daughter – thank you, Georgia Regents University.

 

(The writer is president of the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association of Augusta.)

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