By Megan Higdon
Celebration, friendship, peace and vision, words that hope to bridge American and Chinese culture as the Confucius Institute at Western Michigan University had its grand opening Monday, Nov. 23 in the Dalton Center.
Delegates from the Beijing Language and Culture University and WMU have collaborated to bring new Chinese studies and cultural activities to WMU and Southwest Michigan through the Confucius Institute. The Institute plans to provide quality language programs in local schools, teacher training and cultural events.
The WMU chapter of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia professional men’s music fraternity opened the ceremony singing the American and Chinese national anthems and WMU’s Alma Mater. Following opening statements by Donald McCloud, dean of the Diether H. Haenicke Institute for Global Education, WMU President John Dunn spoke on the importance of this new and stronger relationship with China.
“A university cannot truly be a great university unless it is an international university,” Dunn said. “Let us celebrate change with this new partnership.”
Dunn explained that not only will WMU benefit from this new institute, but surrounding school districts in Kalamazoo will also be affected by this new growth in culture. Dunn went on to talk about the impact that the Confucius Institute would have on students culturally and new opportunities that would become available.
“I think any opportunity that America has as a chance to reach out and make friendship [with China] is a good one,” said Jessica French, a senior at WMU who is currently enrolled in a Chinese class. “Having more options in the Chinese department will be great.”
WMU and BLCU have been negotiating over this institute since 2006, and in July 2009 Dunn, McCloud, Xioajum Wang, Ph.D., the WMU Confucius Institute director and a small campus delegation traveled to China to finalize a set of agreements that established the Confucius Institute on July 7.
In the exchange of gifts BLCU presented WMU two scrolls with sayings from the philosopher Confucius, a commemorative pewter plate, and a plaque with “The Confucius Institute” and the words celebration, friendship, peace and vision were also engraved in both English and Chinese. WMU gave BLCU a commemorative crystal Bronco and two photographs of trees on campus as they change colors during the fall.
Besides Dunn, BLCU Chair Wang Lujiang spoke, as well as Vice Consul General Wu Maoming, from the Consulate General of China in Chicago; Cynthia Running-Johnson Ph.D., chair from the Department of Foreign Languages; Wang Xiaojun Ph.D., director of Confucius Institute at WMU and professor of Chinese; and WMU Provost Timothy Greene, Ph.D.
Administrative Assistant for the Confucius Institute Jaime LeBlanc Hadley said, “the opening of the Confucius Institute will make it easier for students here and younger to study abroad, I’m a firm believer that you understand a culture through its language.”
The performances were the essence of Chinese culture and also included some American talent.
Students enrolled in Chinese classes performed “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” and a Chinese traditional song, “Jasmine Flower” in Chinese. Chinese instruments were also played and Chinese Folk Dances performed, such as the “Red Skirt Dane” and “A Beautiful Day.”
The Lion Dance, staged by Kalamazoo Lion Dance Troupe, was the finale of the ceremony. The traditional purpose of the Lion dance is to scare away bad spirits, and is often performed on holidays and during the opening of new businesses.
“I wish the Confucius Institute and Western Michigan University great success and may our friendship last forever,” Chair Wang Lujiang from BLCU, said.