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UNL Announce

Opening of American Exchange Center celebrated in Xi'an

Chancellor Perlman listens to Xi'an Jiaotong University President Zheng Nanning.
Chancellor Perlman listens to Xi'an Jiaotong University President Zheng Nanning.

The University of Nebraska and China’s Xi’an Jiaotong University celebrated April 21 the official opening of the American Exchange Center. The center is an NU-wide initiative that aims to expose Chinese students and faculty to United States history, law, medicine, art, culture and government. It is also designed to 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.

The celebration, co-hosted by UNL Chancellor Harvey Perlman and Xi’an Jiaotong University President Zheng Nanning, capped an “American Culture Week” in Xi’an. Activities during the week 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, Nebraska natives Henry Fonda, Marlon Brando and Sandy Dennis.

“During a week of cultural activities in Xi’an leading to the opening of the American Exchange Center, we have been extraordinarily pleased with the response from the Chinese community," Perlman said. "There have been engaged interactions between Chinese students and UNL art professor Dana Fritz and with Chinese music students and UNO’s Jazz Quintet.

"Our partner, Xi’an Jiaotong University, has created a physical space that is far beyond our expectations and will serve us well in the years ahead as we bring American culture and perspectives to China. The University of Nebraska now has a strong physical presence in Xi’an, China.”

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 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 at UNL.

The university announced its plans to create the American Exchange Center in October 2011.

“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.

- Melissa Lee, NU Central Administration