ASU receives grant to expand China-US culture collaboration

By

Heather Beshears

Arizona State University has received a $750,000 grant from the Henry Luce Foundation to establish the American Experience Initiative – a multi-platform collaborative model for cross-cultural education and engagement. The program expands the work of The American Centers for Cultural Exchange (ACCEX), a network of 19 American culture centers located on university campuses throughout China.

The funding will support development of an American Studies course that will be taught at Chinese universities, both in-person and online. Development of the course will be collaborative, involving both Chinese faculty and American experts. In addition, it will encourage increased public outreach by the 19 American culture centers in China and develop a web portal accessible in China and beyond.

“We are grateful to the Luce Foundation for its support. This new program will enable wide dissemination to Chinese scholars, students interested in American topics and the wider Chinese public,” says Kathryn Mohrman, the American director of the Center for American Culture at Sichuan University and professor of practice in the School of Public Affairs, part of the College of Public Programs. “The long-term goal is greater mutual understanding between China and the United States.”

Henry R. Luce, co-founder and editor-in-chief of Time, Inc., established the Luce Foundation in 1936 to honor the work of his parents, who were missionary educators in China. The foundation supports a range of initiatives that “bring important ideas to the center of American life, strengthen international understanding and foster innovation and leadership in academic, policy, religious and art communities.”

The investment leverages significant funding that helped establish the ACCEX network. Through a longstanding partnership between ASU and Sichuan University, ASU’s Center for American Culture first opened in 2010 with start-up funds from the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. Based on its success, the U.S. government founded 18 additional centers in 2011 and 2012.

In 2012, the Ford Foundation provided funding that enabled ASU to support four annual conferences of the American Centers for Cultural Exchange. The event has grown steadily since that time. ASU hosted the 2014 gathering in Shenzhen, China, June 16-19.

“This event enables face-to-face interaction among our diverse constituents,” says Mohrman. “While we each have unique characteristics, we have a common goal of creating engaging, experiential learning opportunities in our centers.”

Sessions at the conference focused on best practices in the development of American culture centers, funding opportunities and shared practical experience.

The American Experience Initiative funded by the Luce Foundation aims to broaden American studies beyond the typical focus on the bilateral relationship and foreign policy, and would help further strengthen connections between ACCEX partner institutions.

ACCEX is a bilateral network of centers throughout China that foster education about American culture, history and values. The goal is to improve intercultural communication across nations and foster cross-cultural collaboration.

The centers are jointly managed by American and Chinese universities. Programs, exhibits and activities are created to help students, faculty and citizens develop deeper mutual understanding between the United States and China.