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Center for China Studies Serves as Academic, Service Center

Zhang Jie left Beijing, China, this summer just before the Olympics craze. But he’s been there nearly a dozen times. The professor of sociology has served as director of the Center for China Studies at Buffalo State College since its inception in 2000. And he has seen an increased awareness of China on campus during the past eight years.

“I think the campus has really warmed up to Chinese language and culture,” he said. “Each year, I see more faculty members interested in incorporating Chinese material in their teaching.”

Zhang works with 12 faculty and staff consultants and a few work-study students to maintain the center, which serves as a hub to support research, coordinate visiting scholars, house resources, organize lectures for the campus and surrounding community, and plan China Week in the spring.

Much of Zhang’s time is spent coordinating visiting scholars who come primarily from Buffalo State’s three sister schools: Capital Normal University, Dalian Medical University, and Xi’an International Studies University. Sixty-four scholars have come to Buffalo State since 2000; each stays at least one semester. They are involved in a variety of subjects, such as education, geography, biology, art history, performing arts, and physics. Four new scholars arrived this fall, and Zhang will work with them to arrange activities, find local housing, introduce them to people, and help them acclimate to American culture. All know how to speak English upon arrival.

Zhang regularly travels to Beijing not only to strengthen Buffalo State’s ties to China but also to conduct his own research. He is an internationally renowned scholar on the subject of suicide, and was in Beijing, Hunan, Liaoning, and Shandong, China, this June and July gathering data. The National Institute of Mental Health has awarded him grants totaling more than $1.3 million. Zhang believes that the data he collects—as well as data brought to the United States by the visiting scholars—is very valuable.

“When we apply our [American] research methods to the data, it greatly expands the scope of research,” said Zhang.

China has received much attention on the world stage recently. The country has experienced a 10 percent growth rate every year for the past 25 years, and more than 90 percent of the merchandise sold at some major U.S. retailers, such as Wal-Mart, is made in China. China is the world’s second largest foreign holder of U.S. Treasury securities. And, of course, China is hosting the 2008 Olympic games.

Adding to the excitement of the summer Olympics was the August 1 announcement of the SUNY China 150 initiative. Seventeen students from the earthquake-ravaged Sichuan province will attend Buffalo State College this academic year. Zhang looks forward to working with them and making their experience memorable.

The Center for China Studies is located in South Wing 430. Zhang’s office is in Classroom Building B312; across the hall is a Center for China Studies library that anyone may access with permission.

Zhang encourages faculty and staff members who wish to visit, teach, or conduct research in China to visit the Center for China Studies.

“We’re an academic and service center,” he said. “We’re here to promote awareness, bridge cultures, and internationalize the campus. It’s our hope that we’re providing a service to the community, and that people will know more about China.”