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NDSU proposes new Chinese institute

FARGO -- North Dakota State University aims to become a regional resource for Chinese language and culture by establishing a Confucius Institute.

If approved, NDSU would partner with a university in China to become part of the worldwide network of Confucius Institutes.

The proposal will be considered today by the state Board of Higher Education. Dickinson State University has a similar proposal before the board.

The Confucius Institute Headquarters, based in Beijing, would provide startup and continuing funding and materials if the proposals are approved.

Kerri Spiering, NDSU associate vice president for equity, diversity and global outreach, said Hunan Normal University in Changsha approached NDSU about establishing an institute.

The two universities have worked together in the past on faculty and student exchanges.

The program would make North Dakota students more marketable to companies doing business with China, Spiering said.

The North Dakota Trade Office said trade between North Dakota and China has increased 50 percent since 2005.

The Confucius Institute Headquarters will fund up to two institutes in each state.

Michel Hillman, vice chancellor for academic and student affairs for the university system, said putting the second institute in Dickinson would cover the western part of the state.

Dickinson State already has several partnerships with Chinese universities and hosts about 250 Chinese students on campus.

"This is a new concept," Hillman said. "I think it has significant potential given the size and importance of our two countries."

NDSU does not offer Chinese language courses, but students can take them through the Tri-College University.

However, NDSU has seen demand for Chinese classes and the institute would work on developing Chinese language courses, Spiering said.

The University of Minnesota established a Confucius Institute in 2008.

Director Joan Brzezinski said each institute is different, depending on the needs of that region.

The U of M program focuses on working with K-12 schools, including offering professional development for teachers, she said.

The institute also provides noncredit Chinese language classes for the community and offers cultural programming.

Amy Dalrymple is a reporter at The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.