ASU celebrates Chinese immersion program

“One University, Many Places” – students see it all over campus, but an ASU program is making strides to add a whole new meaning to this vision.

The ASU Chinese Language Flagship Program prepares undergraduate students to function at the professional level in China, giving them the opportunity to study and work in Chinese cities.

The program, which is part of a global, multi-lingual initiative called the Language Flagship, celebrated a continuation of its relationship with the National Security Education Program at an event held in the Memorial Union Wednesday.

The NSEP is a government initiative designed to create a pool of U.S. talent that can excel in other cultures. It awarded ASU’s Flagship program a federal grant on Sept. 29 to ensure its funding for the next three years. The program began in 2007 on a grant from the same organization.

NSEP Director Robert Slater said graduates of the center are on par with other universities who have had similar programs for a longer period of time.

Slater said the grant is intended to recognize ASU for being one of the few universities that stands by its commitment to investing in language studies.

“What ASU has is not just rhetoric, but actual practice,” Slater said.

He added that ASU must now lead a push to encourage studies of this nature to become more widespread across the country.

“Become missionaries,” Slater said to students. “Become the norm, not the exception in education.”

At Wednesday’s event, ASU President Michael Crow said the center is poised to help improve the country’s understanding of other cultures, which is a serious problem in international relations.

“We don’t have the deep understanding that we’re in need of,” Crow said. “The notions of [the U.S. and China] working together can only be achieved through cultural understanding.”

The first group of ASU students returned from China this summer. Their journey began in 2008 when they studied graduate level courses in their respective majors at the University of Nanjing, located approximately 550 miles from the city of Beijing. They then had internships in various Chinese cities.

Miles Campos, a graduate student who now teaches first-year Chinese at ASU, was among these students. Campos said although studying graduate courses in Chinese was difficult at times, he would readily do it again.

“Despite a lot of things, it was an incredible experience,” Campos said.

Madeline Spring, director of the Chinese Flagship Program, said that while the program presents a unique travel opportunity for students, it was more important to get them speaking the language at a high level.

“We focus on getting them to a level where they can function as a global professional,” Spring said. “We want them at a level where they can be taken seriously.”

Political science senior André Bunnit, said the program does this quite well.

“Flagship does a lot to make you self-sufficient in China,” Bunnit said.

Bunnit presented research on copyright law in China at a symposium Wednesday, also held in the Memorial Union. He completed this research during his time with the flagship program.

Two other members of the program presented research, narrating their presentations in Mandarin while other flagship alumni translated.

The program has two students in China right now, Spring said. Three more will be sent this spring, and the program currently has 35 students enrolled.

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