University News

Year of China looks to broaden scope

Senior Staff Writer
Friday, January 27, 2012

The Chinese New Year, which began Jan. 23, marked the beginning of another phase in the University’s celebration of the Year of China.

The Chinese Student and Scholar Association is combining with the Chinese Students Association to host its annual new year’s celebration. Previously, each student group held its own event. This year’s collaboration will allow a more elaborate celebration with more people involved, said Shumin Yao GS, president of the Chinese Student and Scholar Association and a member of the committee for the Year of China.

The celebration, scheduled for Feb. 5, will also include students from Harvard, Dartmouth and Princeton. The Chinese Student and Scholar Association “has a very close connection with the Ivy League schools,” Yao said.

“I hope that many American students and Western students can come to our show,” she said. Yao said she expects 600 students to attend, given that the initiative’s mooncake festival last semester drew over 800 students.

“We want to draw Brown students’ attention to China and draw the world’s attention to Brown,” she said.

Through a series of lectures, art exhibitions, dance performances and multi-day festivals, the Year of China initiative is broadening its reach to address contemporary issues and entrepreneurship in China. “We like to engage as broadly as possible,” said Professor of Physics Chung-I Tan P’95 P’03, a member of the Faculty Executive Committee and the leader of the initiative. Tan said he is encouraging different academic units and student groups “to organize events that are meaningful to them from the perspective of how Chinese culture impacts them.”  

The initiative will increase its interdisciplinary approach in coming months to engage more students and to make them aware of Brown’s global significance, Tan added. Building on past efforts, such as the Year of India in 2009-10, the Year of China is part of a “continual effort of internationalization and globalization of curriculum,” he said. “We learn from what’s been done in the past and add to it.”

At the suggestion of a group of graduate students to increase involvement with the social sciences, Tan allocated funds for a lecture series, which will start Feb. 1 with a talk on the Arab Spring’s influence on China. Other events include a Lantern Festival Gallery Walk, a week-long film festival on gender equality in China and symposia organized by the Watson Institute for International Affairs on climate change, cybersecurity and economic relations among China, the U.S. and Europe.

The initiative’s diverse events incorporate a vast network of alums who are eager to return to speak about their successes, Tan said. Giving them the “opportunity to re-engage” is very rewarding, he said. Among the many keynote speakers who will appear over the course of the semester are John Chen ’78 P’06 P’11, chairman, CEO and president of the leading enterprise software company Sybase, and Alison Friedman ’02, founder of Ping Pong Productions, an organization that develops cultural exchange projects in Chinese performing arts.

A recent delegation from Brown that traveled to Shanghai also promoted more alumni involvement with the Year of China, Tan said. The trip “had a way of energizing alums, particularly the ones in China,” he said.

Brown has numerous connections with Chinese universities, many of whose presidents have visited Brown and expressed interest in furthering communication between the institutions in the future, Yao said. In particular, they want to encourage more Brown students to travel to China, he added.

While many events so far have been well-attended, Tan said he wishes more students would participate.

The initiative’s ultimate goal is to engage more students so that they have a better understanding of “how globally everything is intertwined,” he said. “That’s part of the educational experience at Brown — how we fit into the world and how the world is part of everyday life we have to face.”

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