Getting to know the Confucius Institute

On the first floor of Rasmuson Hall you might notice a small office with Chinese style red lanterns out in front. A plaque to the side of the door states that it is the office of the Confucius Institute of the University of Alaska Anchorage. What does this institution do?

The Confucius Institute is meant to support Chinese language and culture of UAA campus, as well as throughout Alaska. The CI headquarters are in Beijing, China, though all of its other branches are in cities throughout the world outside of China. 300 individual Confucius Institutes exist around the world, with about one third of that total number being in the United States.

Promoting language and culture comes in many different forms, one of which is through the inclusion of Chinese classes offered as part of the UAA course catalog. The CI has brought in instructors from China to teach these classes to UAA students. Currently no major or minor is offered in Chinese at UAA. The HSK is the Chinese equivalent of the Toefl test that is administered to foreign students wishing to enter an American university. Just as the Toefl tests students proficiency of English, The HSK is the only standardized test designed to prove non native Chinese speakers proficiency. Passing the HSK may allow UAA students to receive a semester or even a full year scholarship to study in China.

For UAA students, the CI also sponsors a summer program that allows students from the university to go to Beijing. This is a program that is not exclusive to the students that have passed the HSK.

Annie Ping Zeng, hailing from Xi’an China, is the director of the CI. She describes the goal of CI as a way for “people to know about the Chinese program.” She says they do this not only through the Chinese courses they offer, but by assisting many of the other departments on campus with a variety of activities that relate to China.

Ruby Qiao, Annie Ping Zeng and Hongyang Hu are three of the people that run UAA's Confucius Institute. Photo credit: Casey Peterson

Sense Zeng has been a part of UAA CI program the Institute and has sponsored two professors from China to perform guest lectures for the Business College of UAA. The CI has also sent two UAA professors, one from the Business department and the other from the Economics department, to China.

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The CI also sponsors many culturally significant activities on UAA campus, such as Chinese films, guest lectures, banquets and Chinese painting classes. They offer Chinese language learning support beyond the CHIN 202 class, which is the highest class offered to UAA students. This continued instruction benefits from being highly individualized to each student that wishes to take the course. These are non-credit courses, but a great way for students that wish to continue their efforts to grow more proficient in Chinese.

The scope of all of what the CI does extends into the larger community. Beyond the university level learning, the institute supports the same language and cultural learning for the local K-12 schools.

They have many programs in high schools in the area to help support and enrich their Chinese language learning programs and they hold a yearly contest of the K-12 schools about Chinese culture. Mt. Edgecombe in Sitka has taken first place in the contest for the past several years.

“Providing additional support for the K-12 schools is one of the goals for our future,” Zeng said.

Schools are not the only place that the CI provides assistance. All of the activities hosted by the CI are open to the entire community, and they provide a lot of support for the Alaska Chinese Association, which is a community group that has many of the same goals as the CI. The ACA offers Chinese classes to the community as a whole and the CI gives the ACA free training for all of their teachers, who happen to be volunteers from Anchorages Chinese community.

As for the future, on top of their higher level of support for the K-12 schools in the area, the CI wishes to help the community further explore Chinese culture. They recently had a workshop on Chinese medicine from a visiting export of the subject, and they wish to hold more workshops. Future workshops could include one on how to prepare Chinese herb foods.

“Help understanding the similarities shared between our two cultures,” Zeng said.

The friendly staff inside the Confucius Institute in the Rasmuson hall is happy to answer any questions that students or members of the community have. If you would like more information stop by or visit their page on the UAA website.