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Appalachian’s American Cultural Center in China focuses on sustainability

BOONE—Sustainability was the theme for recent activities at the American Cultural Center in Shenyang, China.

The center, located at Northeastern University in Shenyang, is co-directed by Appalachian State University. It was launched in May 2013 with an initial $100,000 grant from the U.S. Department of State.

View larger imageFaculty members from Appalachian State University helped lead American Culture Week Activities at Northeastern University in Shengyang, China. The event included lecture and presentations on sustainability. Appalachian is one of 19 U.S. universities to open an American Cultural Center at a Chinese university by a grant from the U.S. Department of State. Pictured are, from left, Dr. Anna Cremaldi from Appalachian’s Department of Philosophy and Religion;  Dr. Fuxiao Yu, director of international programs at Northeastern University; U.S. Counsel General Scott Weinhold; Dr. Xiaorong Shao, an associate professor in Appalachian’s Belk Library and Information Commons who is the cultural center’s co-director; Dr. Chuanhui Gu from the Department of Geology; and Allan Scherlen, a professor in Belk Library.
Dr. Jeanne Dubino's class.jpgDr. Jeanne Dubino leads a class on animal and human interactions at the American Cultural Center at Xi’an International University in China. Dubino was one of five professors from Appalachian who participated in American Cultural Week activities in Xi’an, Northeastern University in Shenyang and NEU’s Qinhuangdao campus. Dubino was an exchange professor at Northeastern University from May 15 to July 11, where she taught English literature and education courses. Her visit was sponsored both by the U.S. Department of State’s American Cultural Center grant awarded to Appalachian and by Northeastern University. (Photo submitted).

Appalachian received an additional $50,000 for the second year of the project titled “People & Nature for a Sustainable Future,” which focused on topics related to sustainable development and the environment.

Dr. Xiaorong Shao, an associate professor in Appalachian’s Belk Library and Information Commons, is the cultural center’s co-director. She and Allan Scherlen, a professor in Belk Library, developed the second year grant proposal. Dr. Wen Zhao, dean of Foreign Studies College at Northeastern University, also is co-director of the American Cultural Center (ACC).

Five professors from Appalachian, including two project personnel, traveled to China May 25 – June 7 to give presentations, lead film discussions and judge student presentations during the American Cultural Week at Northeastern University (NEU). The group also visited NEU’s Qinhuangdao campus and the ACC at Xi’an International University, where similar lectures and film showings were conducted.

In addition to organizing the American Cultural Week, the second year program also included creating a student sustainable club at NEU, contributing books and documentary films related to sustainable development to the ACC reading room, and exchanging one faculty member from each institution to teach and conduct research in sustainability.

“We had very successful activities,” Shao said of the American Culture Center activities in China. “We were very pleased that the students in most sessions were very active and we were able to engage them in discussions and learning activities. Traditionally, Chinese students are passive in class and used to lecturing and one-way communication. The experience has taught us that we can always find ways to engage students and make learning more effective.”

Presentations related to sustainability were conducted by Dr. Anna Cremaldi from Appalachian’s Department of Philosophy and Religion, who presented on the topics of food ethics and consumer culture; and Dr. Chuanhui Gu from the Department of Geology, who compared the practices of waste management and water resource sustainable development between the U.S. and China. In addition, Dr. Jeanne Dubino from the Department of Cultural, Gender and Global Studies talked about travel literature and animal and human interactions.

Shao and Scherlen led student discussions for the films “Food, Inc.” and “The 11th Hour” and judged a contest where students presented on 10 classics of American ecological literature.

“The internationally important theme of sustainability allowed us to share our university’s strength and commitment to sustainable development with the Chinese audience, especially young students,” Shao said. “China has become a key country in recent years in addressing issues related to sustainability as it has faced immense environmental challenges brought about by its rapid economic development. Therefore, introducing sustainability concepts and practices through connection to literature and culture serves as an important step toward helping them devise new strategies for sustainable development of their campus as well as their region.”

American Cultural Week at NEU also featured a presentation by U.S. Counsel General Scott Weinhold titled “The importance of people to people exchange in US-China relations,” a talk by Crystal Liu from the organization Education USA titled “Graduate Study in the U.S.” and a performance by theater artists from Harvard University.

Approximately 860 students and 58 faculty members and staff from the three universities attended various activities during the American Culture Week.

Shao and Scherlen plan to organize future American Culture Center activities and invite Appalachian faculty to share their expertise about American culture with audiences at NEU and other ACCs in China. Plans are in progress to compete for an additional ACC supplemental grant.

A video about this year’s American Culture Center program and activities associated with American Cultural Week can be seen at:

Appalachian is one of 19 U.S. universities to open an American Cultural Center at a Chinese university. Appalachian has had a relationship with Northeastern University since 1981 when former chancellor John E. Thomas initiated an exchange program with Northeast Institute of Technology, now Northeastern University. 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.

Profile of American Cultural Center at Northeastern University, Shenyang, China

The ACC is jointly operated by Appalachian State University and Northeastern University. It opened in May 2013. The center has an office and a reading room. Since its inception, the center has successfully implemented 10 major programs and more than 50 activities in collaboration with Appalachian, other ACCs and universities in China and U.S., Ping Pong Productions, Fulbright Scholars, and the U.S. Embassy in Beijing and the U.S. Consulate General in Shenyang.

The center’s reading room

Located in the Foreign Studies College of NEU, the reading room houses approximately 7,000 books in English, 3,352 books in Chinese, 58 magazines and journals in Chinese, 83 magazines and journals in English, and 1,400 films and music CDs. Learn more about the center at

About Northeastern University and Shenyang

Founded in 1923, NEU enrolls more than 20,000 students. It offers 46 undergraduate programs, 53 master’s degree programs and 23 doctoral degree programs, as well as an adult education program. It is considered one of China’s top 50 universities.

Located in northeast China’s Liaoning province, Shenyang is the largest city in northeast China. It has a population of 8.1 million. The city has been a leader in China’s move to modernize its manufacturing industry and reduce air and other pollution.