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“This project... will touch the lives of the next generation of Chinese leaders and untold numbers of citizens, making a positive impact on U.S.-China relations for decades to come.”
- Kathryn Mohrman, Arizona State University

Arizona State University Foundation: American Studies courses in China

For the seventh grant in the Luce Foundation’s 75th Anniversary Initiative, the Foundation’s Directors have awarded $750 thousand to Arizona State University Foundation, to support the development of an American Studies course that will be taught at Chinese universities through the American Centers for Cultural Exchange in China (ACCEX). This program, the American Experience Initiative, will establish a multi-platform collaborative model for education and engagement, building greater cultural understanding between two of the world’s most powerful nations.

ACCEX is a network of 19 centers located on Chinese university campuses. Through a longstanding partnership between Arizona State University (ASU) and Sichuan University, ASU’s Center for American Culture first opened in 2010. Based on its success, the U.S. government founded 18 additional centers in 2011 and 2012. Each center involves a partnership with an American college or university or, in two instances, with a non-governmental organization. The centers bring American scholars, artists and professionals to the Chinese campuses for lectures, exhibitions, performances and other types of dialogue and exchange. The U.S. Embassy in Beijing hopes to increase the number of centers to as many as 35.

Through the American Experience Initiative, teams of Chinese faculty members from ACCEX institutions will develop, with the assistance of American studies experts from the U.S., a new, multidisciplinary course on American cultures, society and religion, broadening American studies beyond the typical focus on foreign policy. The course, primarily intended for undergraduates, will be organized in modules, covering a range of historical and contemporary themes, which can be adapted to fit the pedagogical needs and institutional cultures of interested Chinese universities. It will be piloted at five ACCEX institutions, revised based on feedback, and ultimately disseminated through a web portal for access by academic audiences and independent learners throughout China and beyond. The initiative will also design a series of activities that bring Chinese and American students together virtually to build connections between ACCEX partner institutions.

This grant is a fitting celebration of the Foundation’s 75th anniversary and its historical mission. Henry Luce established the Luce Foundation as a lasting tribute to his parents, Elizabeth Root Luce and Henry Winters Luce, Presbyterian missionaries and educators who worked in China during the first part of the twentieth century. His first major gift, in 1935, was an endowment at Yenching University in Peking, and since that time, the Foundation has continued to support programs that “strengthen international understanding, and foster innovation and leadership in academic communities.”

Kathryn Mohrman, former president of Colorado College who now serves as a professor in ASU’s School of Public Affairs and who has been instrumental in organizing the ACCEX network, commented that the initiative “will touch the lives of the next generation of Chinese leaders and untold numbers of citizens, making a positive impact on U.S.-China relations for decades to come.”

 75th Anniversary Initiative

This grant was part of a special initiative celebrating the Luce Foundation’s 75th anniversary and honoring the vision of our founder, Henry R. Luce. Over the course of two years, the Foundation awarded a series of seven major grants fostering innovation in our historic areas of interest, including leadership, service, scholarship, communication, and international understanding.

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