Massive changes in the Chinese society and economy in the last 20 years have sparked American interest in the country.
Volunteer State Community College students have a unique opportunity to engage that curiosity through a long-running program.
That program has a new Chinese scholar this semester, Ellen Gao. She joins Vol State for the next few years as part of the Confucius Institute, a Chinese state university and government project to share faculty with colleges and universities across the globe. Middle Tennessee State University hosts the local center.
Vol State has had three visiting professors of language and culture through the program in recent years. While there are many advantages to having a Chinese educator on campus, one of the biggest is the ability to teach courses in Chinese. The college is offering three levels of Chinese language classes this year, including, for the first time, an advanced level.
"To my delight these students all have plans to go to China," Gao said. "If they complete level three and successfully apply for a scholarship, they can study in China for a year with all expenses paid."
The Hanban Institute in China runs the program. The goal of the Confucius Institute is not only to have Chinese scholars teaching at American colleges, but also foster an exchange of ideas and cultures.
"My students don't know much about China, but they do have a lot of curiosity. I want to nurture that interest. I love the dynamics in my classes. I feel that they have strong enthusiasm and motivation. It's not just about learning the language. We have a lot of fun."
Vol State will offer Chinese language classes again in the fall. For more information about International Education opportunities at Vol State, including travel-study experiences, visit www.volstate.edu/international.