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Degree in Mandarin Chinese approved at University of Rhode Island

July 5, 2011

[An interesting look at how the desire for Mandarin plays out at the college level.0

From the Providence Journal

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

By Gina Macris, Journal Staff Writer

SOUTH KINGSTOWN — When Mandarin Chinese 101 first appeared in the course catalog at the University of Rhode Island in the fall of 2004, 30 students immediately filled all the available seats.

In the fall of 2010, about 170 students enrolled, almost all of them taking a second semester in the spring.

On June 27, while some of those students continued their studies in China, the Board of Governors for Higher Education gave the language program official sanction, approving a bachelor’s degree in Mandarin Chinese.

“Economically, politically, culturally and socially, our students are very astute about emerging trends,” said Winifred Brownell, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “There’s a great fascination with China.”

Even as URI launched introductory courses in Chinese, “the pressure was on to offer more,” she said. “Faculty and students recognized a need to go well beyond introductory offerings.”

“I was amazed when I saw the interest,” Brownell recalled, saying the first course resulted from a petition signed by 300 undergraduates.

Since then, “Chinese has become very much part of globalizing the university,” said Provost Donald DeHayes, the chief academic officer.

More than half the students who took Chinese during the past academic year also were enrolled in one of two five-year international bachelor’s degree programs, which combine a foreign language with engineering or business.

The most-advanced Chinese-language students — currently about 20 — participate in URI’s Chinese Language Flagship Program, part of the National Security Education Program at the U.S. Department of Defense, which was created to address strategic needs for expertise in key foreign languages and cultures.

More here.

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