The American Cultural Center (ACC) established at Northeastern University (NEU) in Shenyang, China, by Appalachian State University continued a second year of sustainability activities that included presentations and film discussions led by faculty from Appalachian.
The center was launched in May 2013 with an initial $100,000 grant from the U.S. Department of State. Activities have continued with two subsequent $50,000 annual grants. Appalachian is one of 24 U.S. universities to receive the U.S. Department of State grants to open an American Cultural Center at a Chinese university.
Dr. Xiaorong Shao and Mr. Allan Scherlen, faculty members in Appalachian’s Belk Library and Information Commons, and Dr. Wen Zhao, dean of the Foreign Studies College at Northeastern University, co-direct the ACC.
Five professors from Appalachian traveled to China in May to give presentations and lead film discussions during American Cultural Week at NEU. The group also conducted similar lectures and film showings at centers located at Shanghai University and the University of Shanghai for Science and Technology, as well as the Appalachian partner university Beijing International Studies University.
Faculty participating in this year’s program were Dr. Jennifer Westerman from the Department of Sustainable Development, who presented on eco-literature and environmental justice; Dr. Gregory Reck from the Department of Anthropology who addressed the cultural constructions of human nature and the effects of global capital on climate change; and Dr. Beth Cramer, Dr. Xiaorong Shao and John Boyd from the University Libraries who led film discussions and talked about American higher education, graduate studies in the U.S. and writing for publication.
In addition, Dean of Libraries Joyce Ogburn spoke on trends and issues affecting academic libraries in the United States and visited the libraries at Northeastern University and Fudan University in Shanghai to discuss future collaboration opportunities between our institutions.
“The trip gave us the opportunity to affirm the relationships between the libraries. We also found many common challenges facing libraries in both countries,” Ogburn said.
To date, 22 faculty members have traveled from Boone to China to participate in the international program. “All presentations and film sessions were well received by the students and faculty members in the host Chinese universities,” Shao said. “The students were very active in most sessions and willing to share their ideas about the environment issues facing our two nations,” she added. Appalachian representatives also noted how the Chinese students participated in active learning and discussion – a style of learning to which many of the students are not generally accustomed.
The grant provided books and documentary films related to sustainable development for ACCs at Shanghai University and University of Shanghai for Science and Technology as well as books related to American classic literature for the ACC reading room at NEU. In addition, Appalachian hosted two visitors from NEU this summer, while Dr. Jeanne Dubino from the Department of Cultural, Gender and Global Studies returned to teach at Northeastern University from May to July this year as a Fulbright Scholar. Dubino was the ACC exchange professor in 2014.
Shao and Scherlen plan to organize future American Culture Center programs and invite Appalachian faculty to share their expertise about American culture with audiences at NEU and other universities in China. Plans are in progress to apply for a fourth year ACC supplemental grant from the State Department.
A video about this year’s American Culture Center program and activities associated with American Cultural Week prepared by Northeastern University can be seen at https://youtu.be/VEIWnNBWK4g.
About the American Cultural Center at Northeastern University
Appalachian has had a relationship with Northeastern University since 1981 when former chancellor John E. Thomas initiated an exchange program with what was then called Northeast Institute of Technology. Appalachian was the first university in the United States to develop a bilateral relationship with a Chinese university that was not initiated at a government level following China’s Open Door Policy of the late 1970s.
The American Cultural Center is jointly operated by Appalachian State University and Northeastern University, which is now considered one of China’s top 50 universities. The Center officially opened in May 2013 and has an office and a reading room with approximately 7,800 books in English, 3,500 books in Chinese, 68 magazines and journals in Chinese, 89 magazines and journals in English, and 1,400 films and music CDs. Since its inception, the Center has successfully implemented 15 major programs and more than 68 activities in collaboration with Appalachian, Ping Pong Productions, Fulbright Scholars, and the U.S. Embassy in Beijing and the U.S. Consulate General in Shenyang, other ACCs and universities in both China and U.S.