In 2012, Chinese language education received a significant boost at Xavier University of Louisiana when the New Orleans-based school launched the nation’s first Confucius Institute based at a historically black college or university. It was also the first of nearly 500 Chinese government-affiliated Confucius Institutes worldwide to be established in Louisiana.
Since then, the Xavier Branch has not only coordinated the expansion of Chinese culture and language instruction on this campus, but has also helped offer Mandarin classes at seven K-12 schools in the area. of New Orleans.
Late last month, officials announced that Xavier University had been named the lead institution for the 100,000 Strong Foundation’s “Advance Louisiana – Educating a Globally-Competent Workforce” initiative. The initiative, which was endorsed by the State of Louisiana Superintendent K-12, is led by the Washington-based 100,000 Strong Foundation (100K Strong) to achieve three goals aimed at building the capacity of Louisiana residents to understand and communicate with the Chinese language. and cultural.
The goals are to expand Mandarin instruction in Louisiana elementary and secondary schools, community colleges, and historically black colleges and universities; facilitate and enhance study abroad in China for students in Louisiana who participate in Mandarin education; and improve the cultural understanding of owners and employees of Louisiana businesses, especially among those working in the tourism industry.
“We are committed to preparing a culturally competent 21st-century Louisiana workforce and nurturing the next generation of political, business, and civic leaders with a global perspective,” Xavier University President Norman Francis said. in a statement, noting that the school’s two-year experience with a Confucius Institute places it “in a unique position to serve as the lead institute for the Advance Louisiana initiative.”
Carola McGiffert, president of the 100,000 Strong Foundation which seeks to strengthen US-China relations through Mandarin learning and study abroad, said Louisiana is the first state the organization has selected for a statewide learning initiative.
“While having 100,000 Strongs based in Washington and Beijing is important, given our close ties to both governments, the 100K Strong movement is national in scope. For it to succeed over time and that students across the country learn the Chinese skills needed to succeed in the 21st century, it must be rooted in the states,” she said in an email to Miscellaneous.
Founded in January 2013 by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the 100,000 Strong Foundation is an independent, bipartisan nonprofit based at the American University of Washington.
Although a few American universities have come under pressure to close Confucius Institutes due to academic freedom controversies, Xavier officials, along with Louisiana education authorities and 100K Strong, praise the institute for its flexibility in the potential extension of language teaching across the state. Typically, an individual institute represents a partnership between a host institution such as Xavier, Hebei University, and the Confucius Institute Headquarters in China.
Dr. Yu Jiang, director of the Confucius Institute at Xavier University, said working with the 100K Strong Foundation will likely bring new significance to the Confucius Institute given that Xavier University is a historically black university and contributes to increase the diversity of students who are learning Mandarin and studying in China. “We are very honored and privileged to work with the 100,000 Strong Foundation” through Xavier University on the Advance Louisiana initiative, he said.
Officials touted the growing trade between Louisiana and China as a basis for expanding educational and cultural ties. Since 2000, Louisiana has seen steady growth in its exports to China, with the state now ranking fourth in the nation, behind California, Washington and Texas, according to US Census Bureau statistics. In 2013, the US Department of Commerce reported that Louisiana’s exports to China totaled $8 billion, or about 12.6% of the state’s total exports. The $8 billion in exports contrasts favorably with Louisiana’s imports from China in 2013, totaling just over $1 billion.