Confucius Institute BLCU Partners Gathering
Good morning. I am happy to be here with all of you on my first trip to the Republic of Korea, but this is not my first institutional experience with the Confucius Institute.
Before becoming Webster University’s eleventh President in July of 2009, I spent nine years at the University of Akron, which was a host of a Confucius Institute since 2008.
What differentiates the Confucius Institute at Webster University is our global reach and international programs, which I will tell you about later.
We are here as partners with the Beijing Language and Culture University. Just as Liu Qiang and Zheng Chengjun visited Saint Louis last weekend, I am proud to be here to bring you greetings on behalf of the Confucius Institute at Webster University, our faculty, staff and students in Saint Louis, Missouri.
To our host, the Confucius Institute, Keimyung University, thank you for your warm hospitality. Your campus is beautiful with so many stunning symbols representing your heritage, guiding principles, beliefs, and traditions.
Webster and Keimyung share similar backgrounds and beliefs. For example, Webster College was founded in 1915 by the Sisters of Loretto as one of the first women’s colleges west of the Mississippi River, providing higher education to women when it was not generally made available. Several decades later in Korea, an American missionary and two local Presbyterian Church leaders founded Keimyung to provide a Christian-based higher education opportunity for all Koreans. In both cases, our founders were filling unmet needs.
In 1978, Keimyung and in 1983, Webster became universities. This elevation of status signaled the beginning of significant growth and development for our institutions. Keimyung has Bisa, the winged, noble and powerful lion. According to the Keimyung website, Bisa represents “bravery, enduring hopes, and the determination to protect the fatherland.” Bisa’s open wings symbolize the search for the origin of light.
At Webster, we capture these concepts in two forms. We have the Gorlok, a mythical creature that embodies the highest standards of speed, agility and stamina in an atmosphere of fairness and good conduct.
The Webster University Seal features the lantern and open book representing the light of knowledge and surrounding the engraved depiction of our original building, Webster Hall, are our core values of students, learning, diversity, and global citizenship.
These values, represented in our treasured symbols, are values we all share…
- Bravery in our institution’s willingness to explore and identify unmet educational needs and fill them
- Enduring hope for our students, that their learning experiences with us will transform them for global citizenship
- The pursuit of knowledge and enlightenment in our classrooms, where the highest standard of academic excellence prevails
- The creation of an environment accessible to individuals of diverse cultures, ages, and socioeconomic backgrounds where all students gain a respect for diversity and an understanding of their own and others values.
- And a principle of good, ethical conduct to guide our daily actions and will instill in our students the desire to act responsibly toward our environment to ensure a sustainable future and strengthen the communities we serve.
We are all connected, not only by our positions as partners with the Beijing Language and Culture University and hosts of the Confucius Institute, but through our shared philosophies, values, missions, and our treasured symbols.
I believe Confucius was talking about connection and collaboration when he said, “The virtuous is never solitary, but is surrounded by neighbors.”
We are all neighbors. Like each of you, Webster University and the Confucius Institute at Webster University believe in the power of collaboration to ensure the success of our mission to promote the Chinese language and culture in the Saint Louis metropolitan area.
We are neighbors who are dedicated to the teaching and learning experiences that will educate our communities in the rich traditions, language and culture of China. As neighbors, we are keenly aware of the value of partnerships to enhance the quality of life in a community and we appreciate the inclusive nature of partnerships and the importance of integrating other cultures into the community landscape.
We also have neighbors in our respective communities who join us in the spirit of cooperation.
In St. Louis, our neighbors in the public and private K-12 education community collaborate with us to promote the teaching of Chinese language in their schools. Two years ago, there was one school in the state of Missouri teaching Chinese. Today, through the efforts of the Confucius Institute at Webster University, there are 21 schools. Since the opening of our Confucius Institute in 2008, we have sent 36 students and 23 teachers to China.
One magnet school in St. Louis, the Dewey International School, never had the Chinese language as part of their curriculum. In the fall of 2009, two volunteer teachers from the Beijing Language and Culture University found an overwhelming number of students interested in the language.
They taught eleven, thirty-minute classes a day, with sixteen to eighteen students in each class. This past May, the classes presented a play totally in Chinese. They were also presented with the spirit award for the class that improved the most that year. Our schools and our students are truly receptive to learning Chinese language and culture.
We have partnerships in the business community. In Saint Louis, the Confucius Institute at Webster University is working with the Midwest China Hub Commission on its quest to make Saint Louis the China hub for Chinese imports coming to the United States.
One of our staff members, Deborah Jie Fan, a Chinese American, is on loan to the China Hub Commission two and a half days a week. She provides translation and phone communication services, creates PowerPoints for speeches, receives delegates from China, and advises on cultural and protocol issues.
Just a few months ago, as a result of my membership in Saint Louis’s High Level Business Group, Webster’s position as the host of the Confucius Institute and the Institute’s involvement with the Midwest China Hub Commission, I was invited to travel with the Commission to China for a weeklong economic development mission.
This was a state visit that included two of Missouri’s senators as well as a contingent of St. Louis labor, civic, and government officials as well as leaders in commerce. While in China, we were hosted by Vice Premier Wang Qishan, the ministers of Foreign Affairs and Health, and Zhang Zhangsun, chairman of the Glory Estate Company. I also had the opportunity to join the delegation for a trip to the World Expo in Shanghai where we visited the U.S. and China Pavilions.
We also have collaborations with local cultural organizations. These neighbors include our fellow Confucius Institutes across the United States and the Chinese organizations in our Saint Louis community. We work with each other to bring quality programs to our area.
These programs include lectures, training for local educators on how to teach Chinese, as well as cultural offerings like the Beijing Opera and, just two weeks ago, the Chinese Dance Troupe, performing on our campus.
Our Confucius Institute is an important part of the education, business and cultural communities in the Saint Louis region. In the tradition of our founders, the Confucius Institute is filling the need for knowledge and understanding of the Chinese language and culture in our ever-expanding global community.
Webster University supports this exchange of culture not only through the Confucius Institute, but also through programs at our 108 campuses worldwide.
- Our Global MBA and MA in International Relations programs provide students with the opportunity to learn and interact in five countries on five Webster campuses within one academic program.
- Our online virtual classrooms open doors of educational opportunities to students from the northernmost border of North Dakota in the United States to a tent in the Middle East, where a deployed student from one of our military bases continues his or her studies.
- Our sponsorship of faculty and staff to travel abroad for professional development experiences.
- Our International Business Internship Exchange program, in partnership with the state of Missouri Department of Economic Development, has served more than 700 U. S. and international students during the past 25 years.
Over the last five years we have sent IBIE interns to Shanghai and Tianjin (TEE-ahn-gin). One of those interns worked with Anheuser-Busch-Inbev in Shanghai.What is most important in this context is Webster’s strong presence in China.
- In 1996, the Ministry of Education recognized us in Beijing as the first joint MBA program.
- Today we have MBA programs in Shanghai, Chengdu, and Shenzen.
- We collaborate with the Shanghai University of Finance and Economics and the University of Electronic Science and Technology of Chendgu.
- Our China programs are part of our Global MBA and MA in International Relations programs.
- Webster has over 1,000 alumni in China and over 100 faculty exchanges between the United States and China.
- Chinese students attended a summer seminar in Washington, D.C.
These are just a few examples of Webster University’s spirit of collaboration and promotion of the international experience. We know how those partnerships enhance the quality of life in our communities. With our partners, we are making a difference in the lives of those we serve.
We are committed to the partnerships we create and recognize that the strength of the collaborations we seek, create and nurture will be the key element in sustaining our programs today and into the future.
We are here, in South Korea, to talk about the future. I look forward to meeting all of you to explore the possibilities for collaboration and cooperation that await us and perhaps, as I read on the Keimyung website, we will all find ways of “opening the light to the world.”
I will close as I opened with a quote from Confucius who said, “It is good to be among friends who have come from afar.”
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