Submitted/Edwards Campus

Kevin Liu works on sidewalk calligraphy outside the Confucius Institute on the Edwards Campus. Liu is associate director of the institute.

Campus closeup

Kevin Liu, associate director, Confucius Institute

Years at current job: 1 ½

Job duties: I manage the Confucius Institute K-12 interactive distance learning videoconferencing program, summer camps for elementary students, workshops, community language classes, KC Chinese Film Festival and other projects for the institute. I work with scheduling classes, organizing workshops and training sessions and helping create curriculum.

What’s one thing that would surprise people about your work? We just drove to Maize, Kan., to speak Chinese with about 160 second graders. The second graders were all very excited to see the distance learning teachers and all were able to introduce themselves, ask us our names and tell us how they were feeling. We offer instruction in Chinese as a foreign language to 30 elementary classes and 17 high school classes in 18 different schools. Some of these schools are as far away as Maize and Goddard, Kan., west of Wichita.

KU was one of the first homes of a Confucius Institute in the United States. What made KU unique then, and how has the institute helped set the university apart from similar institutions? When the institute opened in 2006, there was only one school district in Kansas and the KC metro area that offered Chinese as a foreign language option; smaller school districts and inner-city districts were unable to access the same level of instruction. The institute began using interactive distance learning videoconferencing to expand Chinese instruction to other school districts, especially small, rural, or inner-city districts. By using videoconferencing, the institute can provide a school Chinese as a normal class, fitting in their daily schedule, to wide range of students – even connecting more than one school together to create a new community of learners. Interactive distance learning increases the availability of instruction to schools that otherwise couldn’t afford a Chinese teacher or another foreign language program. This year, we will provide instruction to over 700 students in Mandarin Chinese at the elementary and secondary school levels.

The Confucius Institute of KU is one of the few Confucius Institutes that offer distance learning instruction anywhere in the world, and we are developing curriculum for teaching Chinese as well as best practices for using the technology to teach foreign languages.

What has the growth of the Edwards Campus meant to the Confucius Institute and vice versa? The addition of Regnier Hall on the Edwards Campus originally allowed the Confucius Institute to move from the Lawrence campus to the Edwards Campus. Now as the Edwards Campus grows, we have the opportunity to work with a wider audience in the KC area and the state of Kansas. We look forward to the opening of the BEST building and the addition of JCERT programs to increase the population of students and community members on the Edwards Campus, many of whom may be as interested in China, the Chinese language and the Chinese culture as the current students at the Edwards Campus.

As the Confucius Institute has grown, we have had the opportunity to showcase our activities and the activities of the Edwards Campus to many different international representatives. We have hosted delegations from the Bishkek Humanities University in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan; the University of Costa Rica in San Jose, Costa Rica; and Huazhong Normal University in Wuhan, China. We are looking forward to hosting a delegation of 70 university officials from Central Asia and the Baltic region who will be visiting Kansas for an orientation on higher education in the U.S. as part of a U.S. State Department program.

One of the biggest missions of the Confucius Institute is community outreach. How has the institute taken KU and all it has to offer to the community, and how will that continue or grow in the future?The Confucius Institute works with a wide variety of museums, schools and community organizations including libraries, heritage organizations, the Kansas Humanities Council, business organizations and others to bring relevant and useful programming on Chinese to the community. We offer business training, custom tailored to the company, to regional businesses, including one business in Overland Park where we have taught Chinese language and culture classes for more than four years. We are also working with KCART and the Life Span Institute at the 2011 KC Chinese Film Festival to present a Chinese film depicting a single father and his son on the autism spectrum. KCART and the Life Span Institute will provide an expert on the autism spectrum to lead a discussion on family and community issues in the U.S. as compared to the same issues in China as evidenced by the film. We are always looking for ways to create synergies with other units at KU, including units at the Edwards Campus, such as the Center for East Asian Studies, the School of Education, the School of Journalism and others.

Campus closeup
Kevin Liu, associate director, Confucius Institute


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