Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs
February 28, 2011

Message From the Director:

Happy Chinese New Year! The 100,000 Strong Initiative starts off the new lunar year still feeling the bounce we got from the phenomenal speech given by First Lady Michelle Obama at Howard University on January 19, in which she promoted the benefits of studying abroad and the 100,000 Strong Initiative in particular. In her remarks, Mrs. Obama offered direct encouragement to the student audience, declaring that, “When you study abroad, you’re helping to make America stronger.” She then posed the critical question: “How do we provide that [study abroad] opportunity for more of our young people?”

The 100,000 Strong Initiative is committed not only to increasing the number of Americans who study in China, but also to diversifying the types of students who have access to these programs, particularly among underrepresented groups, such as African-American students. According to the most recent Open Doors report by the Institute for International Education, African-American students comprised only 4.2% of those who studied abroad in 2008-09.

In addition to promoting existing programs designed to support underserved communities, such as the Gilman Scholarship Program sponsored by the Department of State, we are actively reaching out to Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCUs) and their umbrella organizations to encourage new and expanded China programs. For example, we strongly support the Thurgood Marshall College Fund’s effort to expand opportunities for students at public HBCUs to study in China. We are also targeting urban public school districts with large minority populations, such as those in Washington, DC, to engage younger students in Mandarin courses and study abroad.

In celebration of Black History Month in the United States, this newsletter will focus on our African-American student body’s growing involvement in China. Below we highlight a few young African-Americans who have studied in China, as well as several programs that specifically target minority students. We hope that over the 4 years of the Initiative, we will be able to show not only that we’ve reached our 100,000 numerical target, but also that those 100,000 students are more representative of the United States population as a whole. That would be something to celebrate!

[Carola McGiffert is Director of the 100,000 Strong Initiative and senior advisor to the Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and the Pacific.]

Student Highlights:

Virginia Hunt
Beijing Language and Culture University, GSAL

Date: 02/28/2011 Location: Beijing, China Description: Chinese student Virginia Hunt. - State Dept ImageMy initial motivation to go to China was basic. I wanted to gain a more comprehensive understanding of a fifth of our world’s population. It was the year 2000. I had just graduated from Spelman College. At Spelman, I fortified some of my curiosity about Asia by majoring in history with a concentration in East Asian studies.

Recognizing that my textbook knowledge of China needed not only to be enhanced with primary sources but also updated with current facts, I ventured to the Middle Kingdom to study Mandarin, learn more about both China’s educational system, and better understand how China perceives the U.S. My 1-year “China plan” unfolded to encompass 10 years, approximately one-third of my life. My original objective, which was to explore this rapidly developing country, has since evolved. No longer am I simply a witness to the social, cultural and linguistic rhythms of China. I have grown to become a part of the changing dynamics of this fascinating region -- as China develops, so do I.

As my proficiency in Chinese increased, my professional career began to unfold. Having the ability to both speak and write Mandarin provided me with the flexibility to work in high tech and education. It was fascinating to witness how private education was becoming a buzzword and software engineering, a highly coveted profession. Through these experiences, I learned a lot about China’s people, its culture, and some of the nuances of different industries. I was fortunate to gain Chinese-language fellowships from both the U.S. Department of State and China’s Confucius Institute and have advanced my education as an MA scholar in teaching Chinese as a foreign language.

I continue to encourage others to venture into the life-transforming experience of studying Mandarin and living in China. I am the founding president of the North America & U.K. Association of Black Professionals and Students in Beijing (NUKABB). NUKABB provides a network of support to people of color who are in Beijing for various educational and professional pursuits. NUKABB enjoys its relationship with the U.S. Embassy in Beijing and the State Department through its collaborative work with EducationUSA. My experience in China has shown that the gains one receives from studying and living in this dynamic and diverse country far exceed the discomfort of leaving home.

Nicole Baden
Howard University

Date: 02/28/2011 Location: Washington, DC Description: Howard University student Nicole Baden. - State Dept ImageMy name is Nicole Baden and I am a senior in the Walter H. Annenberg Honors Program in the John H. Johnson School of Communications at Howard University. As a native of the Washington, DC area, I have always been conscious of educational resources in the nation’s capital. I currently study Chinese, Arabic, Spanish, and Korean because I have a genuine interest in communicating with individuals of diverse ethnicities. As a student studying Chinese for approximately 4 years, I have gained generous opportunities to commence my career in the field of international relations and demonstrate my lingual skills concurrently.

During the summer of 2010, I was awarded a Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) from the U.S. Department of State to study abroad in Beijing, China at Beijing Language and Culture University. Because I was required to speak Chinese every day in class, I enhanced my vocabulary and learned more grammatical structures. I esteemed the classroom atmosphere because there were a small number of students in each class, allowing the teachers to tend to the students’ individual needs. While learning Chinese in Beijing, I studied texts that reflected actual Chinese traditions and social conditions. Upon reading and discussing such materials, I was able to understand Chinese culture. My class, for instance, read lessons about the environmental pollution in China, the Chinese economy, and the growing status of women in the Chinese society. These issues were all valid and actual occurrences within China, which made learning Chinese interesting and enlightening with regard to Chinese customs. The home-stays were also a unique aspect of the CLS Program. My home contained three generations, thus enabling me to absorb Chinese family values and receive official language practice simultaneously. I ultimately gained experience with communicating emotions in another culture. Subsequent to my trip abroad, I developed a yearning desire to return to China to ultimately teach the English language.

Jarquevious Nelson
Southern University

Date: 02/28/2011 Location: New Orleans, Louisaina Description: Southern University student Jarquevious Nelson. - State Dept ImageMy name is Jarquevious Nelson, and I am an ROTC Midshipman at Southern University in Louisiana. For my study abroad trip I went to the People’s Republic of China, and my cultural immersion began as soon as I boarded the plane and found everyone speaking Mandarin. I was terrified about not knowing anyone or understanding anyone. After landing in Beijing, I took a bus to the city of Tianjin, and once I arrived at Nankai University and caught up with my group, I began to calm down. The group consisted of students from the University of Utah, AFROTC, Army ROTC, and Naval ROTC, and later that evening we met additional group members from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland who were working toward a Masters in Chinese studies.

That Monday, my classmates and I entered the classroom eager to learn and ready to work. We soon discovered that there was a lot more cut out for us than we thought. We went to class every day for 4 hours a day, did homework for 2 hours, and studied for 2 additional hours. We took classes in Kung Fu, Chinese music, Chinese painting, and Beijing Opera. After studying, we would go out into the city and meet people from all over the world -- Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Italy, Australia, Mexico -- you name it. During the trip we went to Shandong Province, where we visited Confucius’ grave site and temple and hiked Mt. Tai, where emperors would pay homage to heaven (on the summit) and earth (at the foot of the mountain). We hiked the Great Wall and took occasional trips to Beijing. In Beijing I met three Marine Corps Foreign Area Officers attached to the U.S. Embassy China, who shared with me amazing stories about their time in China and gave me insight on how I might become a Foreign Affairs Officer. We took trips to the Summer Palace, the Temple of Heaven, and Ancient Culture Street, Tiananmen Square, and Mao Zedong’s grave site. At all of these historical sites, everyone wanted to take a picture with me because they do not see many Westerners, especially African Americans. I felt like a celebrity.

Overall, this trip was an experience I will never forget, and it motivated me to continue my Chinese studies. I found that the Chinese love when people visit their country to learn about their history and culture. They welcome you to enter their homes, meet their families, and stay for dinner. In fact, the people were so hospitable I sometimes wondered if I was in the Asian part of Louisiana. This amazing opportunity to learn a completely different culture and language is something I encourage all Midshipmen to pursue.

Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program

Date: 02/28/2011 Description: Students in the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program. - State Dept ImageThe Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program provides scholarships to U.S. undergraduates with financial need for study abroad, including students from diverse backgrounds and students going to non-traditional study abroad destinations. Established under the International Academic Opportunity Act of 2000, Gilman Scholarships provide up to $5,000 for American students to pursue overseas study for college credit. Such international study is intended to better prepare U.S. students to assume significant roles in an increasingly global economy and interdependent world. Students who apply for and receive the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship to study “Critical Need” languages, which include all dialects of Chinese, are then eligible to receive an additional $3,000 Critical Need Language Supplement from the Gilman Scholarship Program for a total possible award of up to $8,000.

The program further aims to support a diverse range of students who have been traditionally under-represented in study abroad, including but not limited to:

  • Students with high financial need
  • Students studying in non-traditional countries, especially those outside of Western Europe, Australia, and New Zealand
  • Students with diverse ethnic backgrounds
  • Students from a diverse range of institutions including 4-year, public, private, community colleges, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Tribal Colleges, Hispanic Serving Institutions, and other Minority Serving Institutions
  • Students with disabilities

All recipients are required to carry out a Follow-on Project that promotes international education and the Gilman Scholarship Program at the students' home institution or in their home community. The Follow-on Project Proposal, Statement of Purpose essay and the applicant's academic progress are criteria that are closely considered during the selection process.

You can learn more about the Gilman International Scholarship Program at http://www.iie.org/en/Programs/Gilman-Scholarship-Program.

Thurgood Marshall College Fund

Date: 02/28/2011 Description: Thurgood Marshall College Fund. - State Dept ImageThe Thurgood Marshall College Fund’s (TMCF) work spans a continuum that ranges from scholarships to capacity building and leadership development programs, complementing the work of 47 historically Black public colleges/universities. Serving as an advocate for excellence in higher education and as a catalyst for change, the Fund creates and disseminates new ideas, best practices and policy solutions that address disparities in the performance and productivity of students in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). The Fund received a grant from the U.S. Department of Defense to sponsor a “STEM Fact Finding Mission” to several countries, including the People’s Republic of China.

In October 2010, a delegation of faculty in the sciences from several member institutions joined TMCF leadership in conducting its second STEM Fact-Finding Mission in China. The goal was to promote scholarly work being done at HBCUs in the STEM disciplines; and to establish cooperative agreements with Chinese Universities on student and faculty exchanges and collaborative research opportunities. The delegation met with the Chinese Minister of Education and the Deputy Secretary-General of the China Education Association for International Exchange (CEAIE), as well as with senior officials, faculty and students at Beijing Normal University; Nanjing University of Information Science and Technology (NUIST); and Shanghai Normal University (SNU). The Fund has submitted an initial proposal to the Minister of Education to co-sponsor a research and development project designed around “Building Enhanced Achievement in Mathematics and Sciences (BEAMS): Putting Physics First (PPF)” and established an MOU with Nanjing University of Information Science and Technology to engage science majors from TMCF universities in its summer cultural and academic programs.

A report issued by the National Commission on Mathematics and Science Teaching for the 21st Century, “Before It’s Too Late,” notes that in 1997, China produced 148,800 engineers, in contrast to 63,000 in the United States. As a major advocacy organization for universities that serve nearly 80 percent of all students attending HBCUs, TMCF has an opportunity and an obligation to be a leader in drawing universities together to address this imbalance and create a competitive advantage in STEM and related disciplines. STEM majors at HBCUs must be better equipped to engage in the global economy, and strategic partnerships forged between the Fund and Chinese academic institutions will be instrumental in generating dynamic research and internship opportunities for these students.

Additional information and student resources are available at http://www.thurgoodmarshallfund.net/.

Morehouse College China Program

Date: 02/28/2011 Description: Morehouse College China Program students. - State Dept ImageThe Chinese Studies Program at Morehouse College was established in August 2008 by Dr. Henrietta Yang, who also serves as the Director of the Program. The standard of the program is set high, and students in the program are expected to work hard. Every semester the program offers a series of lectures and Chinese cultural events that are designed to increase cultural awareness on the campus.

Currently, there are approximately 60 students enrolled in the language courses and the new area studies course, Chinese Culture through Film and Literature. Students in the program are encouraged to participate in study abroad programs in China. Among the 60 students, 7 of them have studied in China, for periods ranging from one semester to a year. Mr. Spencer Brooks, who studied at Shanghai University for a semester and returned in January 2011, said:

"This experience has not only changed my life by greatly improving my conversational prowess in Chinese, but I have also made many friends across the world. From Germany to France, Japan to Kazakhstan, Russia to Australia; I have made friendships with many people who I plan to visit in due time. I also will use my time in China to convey a greater understanding of Chinese culture and customs to potential employers within the business world. I plan to use my experience to further my professional career by working with a firm in China or one invested in China's economy."

In May 2011, Dr. Yang will lead a group of 10-20 Morehouse students to participate in a three-week intensive Chinese language and culture program in Shanghai, China. This opportunity has been made possible through a grant from the Wal-Mart Foundation. The selected students will have the opportunity to learn more about Chinese language and culture, to interact with local Chinese, to practice Chinese in real world situations, and to visit historic sites.

For more information on the Chinese Studies Program at Morehouse College, please visit http://www.morehouse.edu/academics/lang/chinesestudies.html.