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Institute deepens USF ties to China
The university will host the state's first Chinese-sponsored Confucius Institute.
By SHANNON COLAVECCHIO-VAN SICKLER, Times Staff Writer
Published December 11, 2007
USF vice provost Ralph Wilcox is in China signing agreements on the new institute.
TAMPA - First came the University of South Florida's business program in Singapore.
Now, just a few months after USF business students began earning their degrees 10,000 miles away, administrators are about to make the Tampa campus home to the state's first Chinese government-sponsored Confucius Institute.
Vice provost Ralph Wilcox is in China today to sign agreements with Chinese government and education officials. The institute for Chinese language and culture will open on USF's main campus in February, when professors from Nankai University in Tianjin arrive to teach.
It will be the only Confucius Institute in Florida, and among 30 established in the United States during the past three years. The institutes aim to boost Americans' understanding of the language and culture of China, one of the world's fastest-growing countries and largest economies.
USF's institute, for example, will provide Chinese language instruction for K-12 teachers. Its instructors also will incorporate Chinese culture lessons into a variety of classes - including business, public health and geography, said international affairs dean Maria Crummett.
The Chinese government will give USF $100,000 a year for the institute's first few years of operations, plus 3,000 volumes for the USF library, Wilcox said. Also, Nankai University will send three professors to teach at USF the first year.
And USF has budgeted $200,000 of its own for the first year to cover the salary of a part-time director and other support staff, as well as three campus offices that will serve as the institute's headquarters for now.
Getting the Chinese Ministry of Education's endorsement for a Confucius Institute is a competitive process among universities, and Crummett started working about a year ago on USF's proposal.
She considers this a big coup for USF, which like other universities is emphasizing China more and more in its global education and research.
"China will be the dominant economy in the world within a decade, if not sooner," she said. "So this is a recognition of the importance of China on the global stage."
Florida International University has a hospitality management program in Tianjin, China, and the University of Florida has an international studies center in Beijing.
The first Confucius Institute opened in Seoul, Korea, in 2004. The next year, the Office of Chinese Language Council International, based in Beijing, chose the University of Maryland at College Park to be the first U.S. university to open one of the institutes. Since then, institutes have opened at Michigan State University, UCLA, San Francisco State University, Texas A&M, and Emory, to name a few.
Crummett said USF will host an official opening celebration in March, where she hopes to have state elected officials and Chinese representatives.
"This is an interesting way that will build our capabilities in Chinese culture and language," she said. "But it's also a bridge to so much more."