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USM Home to Maine’s Only Confucius Institute

Chinese lanterns

This fall, the University of Southern Maine will bring Chinese language and culture to Maine in the state’s first Confucius Institute.

The Confucius Institute at the University of Southern Maine is one of only 90 institutes in the nation and more than 400 worldwide. With support from the Confucius Institute Headquarters in Beijing, the USM Confucius Institute has developed programs that will give students, community members, and educators the opportunity to study Chinese language and culture and learn more about China as an emerging global leader. USM has partnered with Dongbei University of Finance and Economics (DUFE) in Dalian, China, to establish the institute.

“We’re very proud and honored to be the first recipient of a Confucius Institute in Maine,” said USM President Theodora Kalikow. “The institute will serve as a wonderful educational resource to the state and builds upon USM’s service to its community. It places USM among an elite group of universities in the world with these institutes.”

The institute will offer a variety of programs at USM, within school districts throughout southern Maine, and in the community. This fall, the institute has launched a Chinese Language and Culture program for K-12 educators. The two-year, cohort-based program provides an opportunity for teachers to become proficient in Mandarin Chinese and earn credits that may be applied toward K-12 World Language Teacher Certification or advanced graduate work. Students will travel to DUFE in Dalian each summer for intensive study and immersion in Chinese culture.

The institute has also worked with school districts in Portland, Falmouth, Cape Elizabeth, Gorham, and Topsham to establish after- and before-school programming designed specifically for students from elementary to high school and taught by Chinese faculty members from DUFE’s International Institute of Chinese Language and Culture. Students will learn basic Chinese words and sentence structure and develop an appreciation for Chinese culture. 

“One of the most serious deficiencies in American public education is the fact that very few high school graduates are conversant in two or more languages,” said Ted Sharp, superintendent of the Gorham School District. “In many of the developed, as well as the developing nations, graduates earning a high school diploma are conversant in at least two languages. The Confucius Institute and its partnership with area school districts provides a unique and valuable opportunity for us to prepare our graduates so that they can communicate with the people of other nations.” 

Additionally, the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at USM is offering an initial course, “Chinese Language and Culture,” for its students on Thursday evenings this fall. The institute is partnering with the Chinese and American Friendship Association of Maine (CAFAM) to celebrate the annual Moon Festival and other traditional events.  In the future, it will seek other ways to educate the public about Chinese food, art, literature, and music through sponsoring cultural events in partnership with local organizations.

In celebration of this new initiative, the university will host an inaugural ceremony on at 4 p.m., Wednesday, September 25 in 10 Bailey Hall on the USM Gorham campus. Members of the public are invited to join Maine and Chinese officials to learn more about the Confucius Institute, experience a traditional Chinese performance, and view original artwork and calligraphy.

Visit the Confucius Institute at the University of Southern Maine for more information or contact the institute at confucius@usm.maine.edu