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Grant to support cross-cultural partnerships with China

January 31, 2013

In a global economy that is largely driven by forging successful cross-cultural partnerships, working toward mutual understanding and friendship among nations is critical. New support from the Ford Foundation will help ASU’s Center for American Culture promote such understanding and increase collaboration between universities in the United States and China.

The $385,161 grant from the Ford Foundation will allow ASU to support three annual conferences of the American Centers for Cultural Exchange (ACCEX China) network, which consists of Chinese and American directors of American Culture Centers. The centers and the corresponding ACCEX China network are the result of efforts led by ASU to establish a new model for American outreach in China.

The first center was formed in 2010 when ASU partnered with Sichuan University in Chengdu, China. ASU President Michael M. Crow has supported the work of the centers since they were established, and even took part in the initial conversation with former U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman Jr. that sparked the idea for the concept.

“ASU is deeply committed to advancing the success of this endeavor through the facilitation of shared resources and the development of joint programs,” Crow stated in a letter of support for the new funding. “Collaboration creates meaningful opportunities that are unavailable to any one center working alone. By working together to provide a comprehensive and accurate exchange of cultural knowledge, we can better prepare future generations of leaders and support stronger international relationships.”

Today, 19 centers partnering with Chinese and American universities are a part of the American Culture Centers network – and each one is tasked with sharing America’s story through the use of literature, the arts, history, philosophy, religion and other academic disciplines.

“These centers are doing phenomenal work to help transform society by breaking boundaries, and encouraging the sharing of ideas and solutions,” said Jonathan Koppell, dean of the College of Public Programs and director of the School of Public Affairs. “With this new funding from the Ford Foundation, the directors of the American Culture Centers will have even greater opportunities to foster relationships and expand their opportunities for collaboration.”

Through the grant-funded meetings, directors will exchange best practices in the development of American culture centers, build an ongoing network to connect and support the centers, share resources and practical experiences, conduct joint projects and activities, and obtain external funding for network activities.

“We are very pleased by the Ford Foundation’s decision to provide three years of support for the American Cultural Center Directors’ annual meeting,” said Erik Black, education officer at the U.S. Embassy Beijing. “Their generous support of ACCEX China directors’ meetings over the next three years recognizes the importance of the American Cultural Centers, and the value of exchanging good practices and ideas to improve the centers and deepen mutual understanding between the United States and China.”

Kathryn Mohrman, American director of the Center for American Culture at Sichuan University in Chengdu, China, said she was “delighted that the Ford Foundation has recognized the importance of these centers, and the value of sharing experiences and good practices.”

Mohrman, who is also a professor in ASU’s School of Public Affairs, and director of VULII (Vietnam higher education reform) and the University Design Consortium, continued: “This funding will help us take the centers to the next level, helping to expose the next generation of leaders to both countries’ history, culture and contemporary thought.”