Confucius Institute seeks to deepen connection between United States and China

2/16/2017 - Medford/Somerville, MA - The Confucius Institute at Tufts University, pictured here on Feb 16, offers non-credit Chinese language and culture classes in collaboration with Beijing Normal University. (Ray Bernoff / The Tufts Daily)

The Confucius Institute at Tufts University (CITU), launched on June 24, 2015, provides programs in Chinese language and culture as a collaboration between Tufts and Beijing Normal University (BNU).

Located at 112 Packard Ave., the institute seeks to deepen the connection between China and the United States through mutual understanding, according to Mingquan Wang, director of CITU.

“The general goal for CITU is to increase mutual understanding among people in China and in the United States. More specifically, through its dozens of events and activities each year, CITU provides support and service in Chinese language instruction and culture programming and facilitates academic exchanges and collaborations between the two institutions … and the two countries,” Wang told the Daily in an email.

Executive Administrative Dean in the School of Arts and Sciences and Confucius Institute Board Member Scott Sahagian said that he joined the Confucius Institute Board after he had already been working in the School of Arts and Sciences.

“I was asked to join the board after a decision was made to partner with Beijing Normal University,” Sahagian told the Daily in an email. “It has been interesting to work with the director in making CI happen. The opportunities for Tufts students and for other students within our cohort to interact gives Tufts opportunities we would not have had.”

According to Wangsome of the events and programs that the institute holds include conferences and teacher training, workshops and lectures, exchange programs for BNU faculty and student visits and sponsoring scholarships. CITU works with international students and faculty and organizes services for Tufts students on campus.

Wang said that CITU programming includes conversation nights at the Chinese House, one-on-one tutoring services for Chinese language students, open guest lectures on Chinese culture and cultural events like the Confucius Institute Day, held on Sept. 24 in the Alumnae Lounge. 

Wang elaborated on the one-on-one tutoring program in Chinese language that the institute provides, describing it as not only an academic service, but also as a way for students to connect on a personal level and learn about cultural and national differences.

“[The one-on-one program’s] goal is to promote and facilitate both linguistic and cultural exchanges between American and Chinese students who would like to improve their language skills, learn more about each other’s cultures and develop friendships,” Wang wrote.

As a board member, Sahagian does organizational, logistical and design work to plan events and activities.

“I assist the director in the areas of space and finance on campus. I discuss the vision and implementation of the vision, once it has been vetted by the board,” he said.

Wang said the institute is discussing potential future plans for CITU.

“One of the things we are thinking about is to design a series of culture presentations based on the needs of the community and hold mini sessions on campus on a monthly basis,” Wang wrote.

As the director, Wang is highly involved with CITU, and the work he does outside of the institute complements the work he does within it. Wang is the language coordinator for the Chinese program and has been teaching at Tufts for 28 years.

“I play an active role in the Chinese Language Teachers Association in the region,” he said. “I am one of the founders of the New England Chinese Language Teachers Association [NECLTA] and have been on the NECLTA board since its 2012 inauguration. My experience at Tufts and my position in NECLTA enable me to utilize CI resources to provide the service people need.”

At CITU, the board members are not the only people who contribute to the success of the organization. The institute has staff who work in conjunction with Wang and the board. While the board makes decisions about the direction and structure of the institute, the staff members do the day-to-day work of running the events and activities and teaching the classes.

Hongyan Liu, a graduate intern working on his master’s degree in Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language, is a staff member at the Confucius Institute involved with the teaching and conversational aspect of the institute.

“My main task here is to help students [in the] Chinese program with their Chinese language [skills] through conversation practice sessions,” he told the Daily in an email.

Wang explained that the Confucius Institute seeks to broaden Tufts’ commitment to multiculturalism.

“CI’s mission to ‘promote the development of multiculturalism and construct a harmonious world’ aligns well with Tufts’ ‘dedication to globalism and active citizenship’ and ‘commitment to humanitarianism and diversity,’ which are deeply held ideals at Tufts and part of the Mission Statement of the School of Arts and Sciences,” Wang said.

These values that Wang refers to allow CITU to work effectively within the Tufts community and help guide its events and collaborations. Though these ideals already existed within the Tufts community, the Confucius Institute brings a new angle to Tufts’ multiculturalism, focusing on China-U.S. relations.

“[CITU] enables Tufts to extend its leadership role in enhancing the understanding of the Chinese language and culture at Tufts, in the Greater Boston area and beyond,” Wang wrote. “It also strengthens Tufts’ role in global collaboration.”


COPYRIGHT 2019 THE TUFTS DAILY. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.