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New Cornell-China center for humanities will foster interdisciplinary research

A new partnership with East China Normal University (ECNU) promises to create research and scholarship collaborations in the arts and humanities.

The new Cornell-ECNU Center for Cross-Cultural Studies, which will be jointly funded by Cornell and ECNU, will consist initially of about 10 distinguished faculty members from both universities who are well-versed in interdisciplinary collaborations in art, literature, history, philosophy and other areas. Its purpose is to foster collaborative and innovative research among these core faculty members initially and then other faculty at both universities as the center grows.

Four officials from the Shanghai institution visited the Ithaca campus from Oct. 19-21 to formally launch the partnership. It is the first major initiative of the Cornell-China Institute for the Arts and Humanities, housed within the College of Arts and Sciences.

Leading the delegation from China was Zhang Jishun, ECNU professor of history and president of university affairs. She explained that the center had been in the works for a number of years, and its purpose is driven by globalization and its effect on arts and humanities fields. Zhang previously visited Cornell in 2006 to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with President David Skorton to lay the groundwork for the new center.

The new initiative will "enable cross-cultural, transnational and global kinds of dialogues and studies among scholars committed to the development of the arts and humanities," said Haiping Yan M.A. '87, Ph.D. '90, director of the Cornell-China Institute for the Arts and Humanities and director of graduate studies in the Department of Theatre, Film and Dance.

"It's not going to be easy, but that is the point," said Yan, who added that she is "moved and inspired" by the enthusiasm that colleagues, staff and students at Cornell have shown for the new initiative.

Leaders of the center look forward to collaborative research that may also delve into such areas as visual arts and media, according to Yan. They hope students from both institutions may benefit from new courses and a distinguished international forum that are both now in planning stages, she said.

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