Through a partnership with the Office of Chinese Language Council International (Hanban) and Jiangsu Normal University in China, Miami Dade College inaugurated its branch of the Confucius Institute in 2010. Since then, the Institute has been a relentless driver of positive social change through the expansion of community education and enrichment services in Chinese language and culture.
Seven benchmarks by which the Institute has measured its ability to effect meaningful social change over the years are:
- Its offering of a critical language to underserved communities: By opening the opportunity for communities that otherwise would not have access to learn a “critical,” in demand language, the Institute increases the employability prospects and career opportunities of local residents. 17.9% of which live under the poverty line, according to published estimates .
- Its expansion of international education for under–represented groups in higher education: Prior to the Institute’s founding, Miami Dade College did not have a language–based study abroad program to China. Thanks to the Institute, the “largest and most diverse community college in USA” can offer its 161,581 students the option to travel to China on a scholarship that covers all tuition costs. This offering broadens the educational opportunity of MDC students: 92% of which are of under–represented groups in higher education .
- Its increase of underserved communities’ international exposure through cultural events: According to census figures, 17.9% of Miami Dade County residents live under the poverty line as of 2011 . These residents often do not travel outside of the country nor attend cultural events, due to their cost and lack of accessibility. By hosting its cultural events in venues that include the inner cities and offering them on a free–admission basis, the Institute levels the ground of cultural enrichment for hundreds of families around the county.
- Its promotion of community health and civic engagement through the arts: It is well documented that engagement in cultural events has a direct correlation with increased civic participation, such as volunteer work and other forms of community involvement . This increased social engagement in turn fosters safer, more cohesive communities . The Institute’s commitment to offering year–round, cultural events on a free–admission basis provides exactly the opportunities that foster safer, healthier and more cohesive communities. A benefit that improves the overall quality of life of all residents.
- Its expansion of local businesses’ international reach: Because of language barriers and the small representation of China in Miami Dade County, only 0.23% according to census figures, small businesses would normally miss the profitable potential that connection with China would offer them . Via professional development offerings and other capacitation services, the Institute opens venues for increased economic competitiveness to the businesses in Miami Dade County.
- Its promotion of community cohesion through cultural programming: According to census figures, the Chinese population makes up 29% of the total Asian community in Miami . These residents often do not find a cultural niche in which to practice their home country’s traditions nor receive the social support to maintain cultural identity. Via its programming offerings, the Institute provides these residents the opportunity to achieve social cohesion in the face of dispersion and potential isolation.
- Its contribution to the positive cultural identity formation of minority youth: Studies in child development have consistently found that children who positively affiliate and engage with their culture achieve better developmental outcomes thanks to increased resilience . Given that Miami does not have a large Asian population, only 1.69% according to some findings, the Institute’s outreach programming provides a critical service to Chinese minority children who would otherwise not receive the social validation for their cultural identity development .
In just three years of operation, how does the Institute meet its ambitious standards of social impact? Besides its unwavering sense of mission, its strategic location holds much of the answer. The College’s reputation as “the largest and most diverse college in the USA” and its privileged location in the financial, and civic district of Greater Miami, places the Institute in a strategic coordinate to enrich the cultural and intellectual fabric of the community while furthering MDC’s larger mission of “changing lives through the opportunities of education.”
With Chinese as an addition to its already diverse cultural milieu, the Institute brings to the College’s campuses the expansion of international education, enhanced cross–cultural understanding and opportunities to develop global citizenship through year–round initiatives.
With the Institute at right at the heart of Miami, South Florida now has a fertile nexus and exchange–passageway to China.