Augusta, Ga. — The first Confucius Institute to be affiliated with a comprehensive academic health center opens at Georgia Regents University on Friday, March 28.
The new non-profit public institute for the study Traditional Chinese Medicine, Chinese language, and culture was created in partnership with the Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, one of the oldest and most notable universities in China for the study of TCM.
“The Confucius Institute and its focus on Traditional Chinese Medicine is very much aligned to our mission as a university,” said GRU Vice Provost Dr. Roman Cibirka. “It’s a great opportunity to blend East and West in terms of Chinese language and culture and the management of patients, recognizing that mind, body, and spirit are important.”
The unique partnership was announced last July with the authorization of the Office of Chinese Language Council International under the Ministry of Education of China. GRU joins more than 400 universities worldwide to host institutes for the study of Chinese language and culture. GRU, however, is the first in the western hemisphere with a focus on Traditional Chinese Medicine. A week of events is planned in celebration of the grand opening from March 24-28, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and half-day symposium on March 28. Attendees of the symposium are eligible for continuing education credits.
“Because our Confucius Institute is the very first with a focus on Traditional Chinese Medicine, it really builds on our strengths in the health sciences and opens new opportunities in health care and biomedical research,” Dr. Joe Tsien, Co-Director of the Brain and Behavior Discovery Institute at Medical College of Georgia, who serves as the founding Director of the Institute. “There are many diseases that are still to be solved, so how do we bring a new perspective to medicine? We can take advantage of 2,000 years of history and knowledge to expand and discover new ways of dealing with health issues, which will not only help patients but also educate the next generation of health care providers.”
Renovations are complete on the Institute’s offices on the first floor of the G. Lombard Kelly Administration Building, also the site of a new museum paying homage to Chinese art, culture, and Traditional Chinese Medicine, including herbal remedies and acupuncture. An initial course in Chinese language and culture starts in the Fall, while an additional class in Traditional Chinese Medicine could follow as soon as Spring 2015. GRU also plans to develop a pair of certificate programs that would attract professional candidates interested in obtaining certification in Chinese medicine, and give students on GRU campuses an opportunity to dedicate 9 to 12 hours of coursework to a single topic, such as Chinese language. The programs also include opportunities for faculty and student exchange between the two schools.
“The Confucius Institute sets us on a world stage, opening a window to China, one of the strong emerging markets,” Tsien said. “It gives us a platform where we can have more study abroad opportunities for our students, because the more exciting academic programs you can offer, the better students you can attract, which leads to a better graduation rate and a better impact for our community. Today’s students want to come to a university where there are a lot of options and get exposed to the world.”
Opportunities for multicultural awareness extend beyond campus to the Augusta community. The university’s College of Education and Educational & Collaborative Technology team have developed an app with games to teach Chinese language and culture at 52 K-12 partner schools in the Augusta area.
“We hope to get our graduate students to go into local schools and teach Mandarin to elementary, middle, and high school students,” said Dr. Cindi Chance, Dean of the College of Education. “It’s a good way to get information into the schools and to get youth excited about Chinese medicine, language, and culture. Very few CSRA children and youth have direct experiences with Chinese culture and language.”
There are endless opportunities for collaboration with the new institute, said Dr. Andrew Balas, Dean of the College of Allied Health Sciences.
“Really good ideas almost always come from collaboration—the spark when two different things come together. That’s what’s behind many great discoveries and small successes in science,” said Balas, part of the team developing new curriculums and student and faculty exchanges through the Institute. “Our students cannot function in an increasingly interconnected world without having the patience or the respect for working with other people who look differently, speak differently, and think differently. This is not a trivial thing you can just learn by someone teaching it to you in a classroom. You have to experience it.”