Guzheng and viola duet by Daisy Wu of Alfred University (right) and Leanne Darling of the UB music department.
Nichols School Chinese language teacher Yajie Zhang receives the Confucius Educator Award at the farewell/awards dinner. Zhang is joined by Stephen Dunnett (left) and Zhiqiang Liu.
Published January 4, 2022
As the UB Confucius Institute (UBCI) wound up operations at the end of 2021, faculty, administrators and community partners celebrated its impactful work at the university and throughout Western New York over the past 12 years with a celebration that featured a program of music and dance at UB, and a banquet at Eastern Pearl Restaurant in Amherst.
Established in November 2009, UBCI has sponsored China-related research, teaching and artistic production at UB; Chinese language teaching and student exchange at UB and in local K-12 schools; and cultural events that fostered better understanding throughout Western New York of Chinese traditions and contemporary culture. Annual funding was provided by the Office of Chinese Language Council International (aka “Hanban”) and UB in cooperation with Capital Normal University, UB’s longtime partner in Beijing.
For the afternoon program on Dec. 12 in the Drama Theatre in the Center for the Arts, John Wood, senior associate vice provost for international education, gave welcoming remarks on behalf of Nojin Kwak, vice provost for international education, who was traveling overseas.
“We can never know how much the encounter with China made possible by UBCI will influence the many thousands of local K-12 students who benefited from its programs, not to mention our own students at UB,” Wood said. “It’s thus most unfortunate that current circumstances leave UB with no choice but to close the institute. For those of us who’ve been involved in our longstanding collaborations with China, this new era of rising geopolitical tensions is distressing to contemplate, as we lose a key local resource for engagement with China.”
The program that followed Wood’s remarks included vocal performances by the Buffalo Chinese Chorus, Nichols School Chinese Chorus and soloist Robert Liu; instrumental pieces performed on guzheng by Zhongbei (Daisy) Wu, visiting associate professor of music and Confucius Institute director at Alfred University, and on viola by Leanne Darling, adjunct instructor of viola performance at UB; and dances presented by the Buffalo Fanghua Dance Group, Buffalo Taichi Group, Buffalo Qipao Group and UB management student Yijun Zhu.
A highlight of the evening banquet at Eastern Pearl was the presentation of the Confucius Educator Award to local K-12 Chinese language teachers Yajie Zhang of Nichols School and Shue Zheng of City Honors School, and to Xuehong Lü, director of the Chinese Language Program at UB for nearly 20 years before her retirement in 2018. The awards recognized the recipients’ distinguished teaching and outstanding leadership in developing premier Chinese language programs at their respective institutions.
The banquet program also included remarks from UB administrators and community partners of the Confucius Institute. Lixin Zhang, president of the Chinese Club of Western New York when UBCI was established, spoke about the central role UBCI played in bringing the community’s annual Chinese New Year gala to the Center for the Arts and in many other collaborative programs. Paul Casseri, superintendent of Lewiston Porter Central School District, thanked UBCI for helping to place 10 J-1 visiting teachers from China in the district, for Confucius classroom funding and for collaborating on numerous other programs that introduced Lewiston Porter students and teachers to Chinese language and culture.
Other speakers at the evening program include Stephen Dunnett, professor emeritus of education, former vice provost for international education and longtime chair of the UBCI board of advisers; Zhiqiang Liu, UBCI director and professor of economics; and UBCI associate director Bruce Acker.
Dunnett reflected on UBCI’s impact throughout the years, noting how proud he was of his association with the institute and its many contributions to increasing knowledge of Chinese language and culture, and support for academic research about China. He said he saw UBCI as an outgrowth of UB’s pioneering programs in China in the early 1980s, which made the university especially well known in that country.
At a previous ceremony honoring Confucius Institute advisory board members, John Thomas, professor and dean emeritus of the School of Management, received the Confucius Educator Award for his leadership in several groundbreaking executive MBA programs in China and elsewhere in Asia.
From 2010-21, the Confucius Institute partnered with faculty in many UB departments to co-sponsor 74 lectures by professors and other leading specialists in China studies throughout North America; 26 major conferences, symposia and art exhibitions featuring scholars and artists based in the U.S. and China; and more than 25 teacher workshops and seminars. The institute hosted six J-1 visiting professors from China to teach in the UB departments of Linguistics, Learning and Instruction, and Art, and arranged for 42 J-1 teachers from China to teach Chinese language and culture in K-12 schools in Erie and Niagara counties.
Through the Confucius Institute, more than 80 UB students and 75 high school students received full or partial funding to study in China, including 12 students who were awarded Confucius Institute scholarships for semester or year-long study at Chinese universities. In all, more than 35,000 students from UB and throughout Western New York studied in Chinese language programs affiliated with the UB Confucius Institute.
Liu concluded the Dec. 12 program by thanking and congratulating UBCI’s sponsor and partner — Capital Normal University in Beijing — as well as local community collaborators, and UB faculty and staff.
“As we celebrate 12 years of the Confucius Institute, let’s take pride in what we have accomplished, together, in the past 12 years; let’s be grateful to our sponsor and partners; and let’s congratulate each other,” he said. “Together, we had a fabulous run.
“As we bid farewell to the Confucius Institute,” he noted, “let’s be confident that we will find new ways to continue the work of the Confucius Institute: promoting Chinese language learning, fostering a better understanding of Chinese society, and engaging in research and teaching about China.”
The UBCI was instrumental is providing my daughter with seven years of Mandarin instruction through our local middle and high school. As a result she has excelled in the language and applied to be a double major in college. Her interest in STEM and Chinese has made her a valuable candidate for many of the schools to which she's applied. Her Chinese teachers have all praised her facility with the language and she has combined her extracurricular dance with the language to perform at four Chinese New Year celebrations.
This is such a huge loss to UB and Western New York. I sincerely hope those involved will find alternatives. It is needed now more than ever. Thank you to all who ran the UBCI and its partnerships.
Why is this program ending? We need collaboration and cooperation with China more than ever. This is very disappointing.
Maureen A Milligan