American Cultural Center opens at UDCI, bridges cultures

By: Alise Jarmusz – Asst. News Editor

On Tuesday, Dec. 2, United States Ambassador Max Baucus joined University of Dayton President Daniel J. Curran in opening the new American Cultural Center, one of only 20 such learning centers funded by the U.S. State Department in China, according the UD website.

The American Cultural Center is located at the University of Dayton China Institute in the Suzhou Industrial Park and will “support activities to bring Americans and Chinese together to explore U.S. culture, society, government, language, law, economic system and values.”

Programs at UDCI’s newest addition are said to include “learning projects by University of Dayton and Chinese students; a cultural immersion program for Chinese students; presentations on American culture and society; support for American students teaching English in Chinese schools; and training programs for Chinese companies on corporate social responsibility, energy efficient manufacturing and environmental design,” the UD website stated.

Jia Jia Wei, associate director of China initiatives at the University of Dayton, believes the center will provide more than simply academic benefits to students.

“I think having this American Cultural Center in China is going to be very beneficial to not only UD students, but also to Chinese students locally in China and from UD’s partner universities in China,” Wei said. “It’s really going to help to breach the cultural gap so that it will enhance cultural connections between U.S. and Chinese students.”

Wei works alongside various departments at UD to plan academic programs for the University of Dayton China Institute. She said many of the programs within the American Cultural Center would be interrelated with the academic programs, and initiatives will include all departments at the University.

“The projects we have lined up for the cultural center are across all departments. So there’s some engineering programs where there’s going to be UD faculty teaching engineering courses, for example focused on the environment and sustainability,” she said. “Then there will also be classes related to history and philosophy and also even the arts, so it’s really not just focused on one department.”

In addition to academic programs, the American Cultural Center will give American students the opportunity to work together with local Chinese students in a problem-solving setting, Wei said.

“There will be classes taught [at UDCI] by the UD faculty for the spring. They will invite students from local universities, like Suzhou University and other local institutes partnered with UD and do projects with our UD students,” Wei explained. “They can discuss and share their views across cultures, while learning to solve a particular problem.”

UD students will also have the chance to teach at local schools in China. Wei believes the program will be a wonderful benefit to both parties involved.

“We are giving our domestic students the opportunity to teach or provide a seminar to local high school students in the area,” she said. “So basically our students can give back to the Chinese community by teaching them English or some topic of interest in English, and then the students in China will benefit locally because they will gain another perspective in addition to English language skills.”

Lindsey Satterthwaite, a junior marketing major who studied abroad in China last summer, believes the American Cultural Center is a huge asset to both American and Chinese students.

“I think the center is an amazing idea. I visited China last summer through the UD program, and I can honestly say that I had a positive experience because of the generous Chinese UD students who willingly took me under their wings and helped me see and experience Chinese culture,” Satterthwaite explained. “The center is a way for future students to have the incredible experience I had.”

According to the UD website, UDCI’s first semester-long program will begin this January. UD students can take advantage of the institute at no additional cost relative to staying on campus.

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