The University of Iowa

UI named partner in foundation to encourage study in China

October 15th, 2014

By Chris Higgins, The Daily Iowan

The University of Iowa will soon expand its student presence even further across the Pacific.

The UI was recently selected as one of eight signature partners for the 100,000 Strong Foundation for 2014-15.

The foundation, sponsored by the U.S. State Department, intends to strengthen relations between the United States and China by encouraging students to study Mandarin Chinese both here and abroad, especially the latter.

Other institutions with the designation include the Council on International Educational Exchange, the University of California-Los Angeles Confucius Institute, and Xavier University of Louisiana.

At the UI, much of the work will depend on as many as 10 student ambassadors, specially selected by International Programs, who have participated in Mandarin programs and have studied in China.

“We’re having peers who are doing this to be able to speak to other students about the value what they’ve done, what they come away with, and how they feel this will help them in their future lives and careers,” said Associate Provost Downing Thomas, the dean of International Programs.

UI study-abroad adviser Zach Smith said grants through the foundation possibly could come to the UI to allow students to study in China as well.

Ambassadors will be expected to infuse their Chinese-language experiences into other sectors of their lives.

“That may mean going to classes and giving some kind of presentation about study abroad or maybe deliberately bringing that opportunity in places where they have leadership,” Thomas said. “For example, in their fraternities or sororities, or maybe in the residence halls and other kinds of programs where they can speak about their education, such as student government.”

UI’s partnership will also entail cultural events on campus, such as a Chinese film festival, though specifics are still being ironed out.

“It’s important to show people we are prospering a campus that has a healthy relationship with things that are not necessarily just Iowa,” Smith said.

The foundation formally began in 2010, and the ambassador program started in January.

UI junior Hannah Adamson, who is in the second-year Chinese course, said stimulating Chinese study could benefit the UI campus.

“I feel sometimes there’s a gap,” she said. “Even though there’s a huge population of students from China, I feel like sometimes there’s still this gap, and one of the big reasons for the gap is because of the language … when you break the language barrier, you realize there are really no differences.”

Smith said he would be interested in becoming a student ambassador in the future if possible.

“When you bring in a program that offers or at least encourages students to think about Chinese, I think it can really help them open the door to new opportunities that they never thought imaginable,” he said. “I will say Chinese is difficult, and maybe this is just me, but I think anyone can learn Chinese.”