Confucius Center first in the state

University President Bob Bruininks helps unveil a plaque Friday at the opening celebration of the Confucius Institute at the University of Minnesota. The institute aims to promote the study of Chinese language and culture in Minnesota.

Ali Haupt

University President Bob Bruininks helps unveil a plaque Friday at the opening celebration of the Confucius Institute at the University of Minnesota. The institute aims to promote the study of Chinese language and culture in Minnesota.

In a room filled with the smell of Chinese food from the Tea House , University officials and Chinese partners cut the ribbon Friday to officially open MinnesotaâÄôs first Confucius Institute. The institute, which is one of 40 in the United States, will offer language and cultural programming for the general public throughout the year . Some of the programs currently scheduled include a Kung Fu class instructed by graduate student Che Wang and a Family Chinese class taught by a native speaker and licensed elementary school teacher. As part of the UniversityâÄôs Outreach Mission, the institute aims to serve communities across Minnesota by connecting them to Chinese language and culture through educational programs. âÄúIt is a worldwide effort by the Chinese government to promote Chinese language and culture,âÄù Acting Director Joan Brzezinski said of the Confucius Institute. Brzezinski, who also serves as assistant director of the University China Center, said the institute has already held a few programs, including a public viewing of the Olympic Opening Ceremonies at Coffman Union. Over 300 people attended. The Confucius Institute was equally funded by the Chinese Language Council International and the University. Jennie and Fred Hsiao , who both made contributions to the China Center, also pledged to donate a major gift to the institute. The institute is an opportunity for the University to promote globalism and multiculturalism, Robert Jones, the senior vice president of system academic administration, said. International Programs Associate Vice President Meredith McQuaid rose to the challenge and listened to JonesâÄô request. McQuaid said she is glad to see her project finally completed. âÄúWe are absolutely delighted because it has taken a long time to get here,âÄù McQuaid said. âÄúItâÄôs been a long road.âÄù The institute was even better than she had imagined because of the amount of support from the public school system, McQuaid said While many of the resources will be utilized by K-12 schools in Minnesota, University students can benefit from the offerings of the institute, as well. University President Bob Bruininks said that interest in Chinese language teaching jobs has increased. In 2006, seven students sought license to teach Chinese. This fall, the number jumped to 27. Friendship Association of Chinese Students and Scholars, a student group at the University, has similar goals to the institute. The association promotes Chinese culture at the University and facilitates the communication among Chinese students and scholars. âÄúI think it will help the students at the University to know more about China and the Chinese culture,âÄù association Vice President Hui Li said. Bruininks said Regent Venora Hung is a 74th direct generational descendant of Confucius. âÄúShe told me that last week, and I said âÄòVenora, you have to be here,âÄô âÄù Bruininks said.