The University of Nebraska and China’s Xi’an Jiaotong University celebrated Saturday the official opening of the American Exchange Center, an NU-wide initiative that aims to expose Chinese students and faculty to U.S. history, law, medicine, art, culture and government and strengthen Nebraska’s collaboration with China. The exchange center is one component of NU’s overall global engagement strategy to build relationships with key nations that will benefit Nebraska and the world. Only 10 such centers won seed funding from the U.S. government after a competitive application process.
Saturday’s celebration, co-hosted by University of Nebraska-Lincoln Chancellor Harvey Perlman and Xi’an Jiaotong University President Zheng Nanning, capped an “American Culture Week” in Xi’an which included a lecture from University of Nebraska Medical Center students, photography exhibits and lectures from UNL faculty, and performances by the University of Nebraska at Omaha Jazz Quintet and a Xi’an Jiaotong student music and dance troupe. Xi’an students and faculty also had the opportunity to view classic American movies like “The Grapes of Wrath,” “A Streetcar Named Desire” and “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” – which star, respectively, Henry Fonda, Marlon Brando and Sandy Dennis, all of whom were born in Nebraska.
The NU delegation in Xi’an included representatives from all four campuses. The campuses will have significant involvement in the American Exchange Center as it becomes operational, providing faculty lectures, cultural performances and instructional courses at Xi’an Jiaotong and in Xi’an and Shaanxi provinces. The center also will sponsor reciprocal student exchanges so that students from both NU and Xi’an Jiaotong can gain valuable international experience.
The center will operate much like the Confucius Institute, which, through a partnership with Xi’an Jiaotong University, promotes Chinese language, culture and history on UNL’s City Campus.
The university announced its plans to create the American Exchange Center in October.
“I could not be more pleased with the celebration in Xi’an. The opening of the American Exchange Center is a fundamental part of the University of Nebraska’s efforts to deepen our relationships and engagement in China,” NU President James B. Milliken said. “We enjoy an excellent partnership with our colleagues at Xi’an Jiaotong University and I’m confident that our collaborations will benefit students, faculty and the university communities in Xi’an and Nebraska.”
Milliken noted that China is among the countries NU is targeting for stronger research collaborations and student and faculty exchanges. Joint research efforts between Nebraska and China in critical areas such as public health, agriculture, engineering, water and education – all historic strengths for NU – can help solve significant challenges facing both regions as well as the rest of the world.
Xi’an Jiaotong University is a leading research university in China, with programs in science, engineering, medicine, economics, management, art, law, philosophy and education. It has a current enrollment of more than 30,000 students. Xi’an, with a population of about 10 million, is China’s third “international city” behind Beijing and Shanghai. Although it is a major tourist destination, Milliken noted that it does not have the same exposure to American culture as do the other two cities – making it an ideal location for the American Exchange Center.
David Lou, a recently retired professor of mechanical engineering at UNL and the founding director of the Confucius Institute, will serve as deputy director of the American Exchange Center until a permanent deputy director is identified.