Skip to main content Skip to navigation
Washington State University
News Travels December 2015 newsletter home page

The Chinese Table

The Chinese Table students tasting a sample of traditional dishes.
The Chinese Table students tasting a sample of traditional dishes.

Chinese Table is an extracurricular activity put on by the Chinese professors. This fall, a high a number of Chinese majors participated in CET programs in Harbin and Beijing, China, for Chinese-immersion studies. With these active members absent, we adjusted the frequency and scope of Chinese Table. Early in the term, we began with a welcome-back gathering of Chinese-speaking small talks along with self-prepared foods and drinks. Our featured guest was the CET representative, Katherine, who introduced another round of information regarding the CET programs to WSU Chinese learners. Our next event was co-hosted with the Center of International Students and held at the Compton Union Building. It was a rare opportunity for participants of Chinese Table to mingle with students from different cultures and nationalities and spread the word about the Chinese program at WSU.

On September 28, we celebrated the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival. We watched a Powerpoint slideshow explaining the origin of this ancient folk festival. We also learned about the mythical tale of the Moon Lady, Chang’e, and tasted a sampling of mooncakes and other traditional dishes prepared in honor of the year’s abundant harvests. For Halloween, we held a “Memorial Day of the Ghosts” (Guijie), which featured students singing Chinese songs, telling horror stories in Chinese, and simply having fun with our Chinese-styled “spooktacular.” We eagerly look forward to our final Chinese Table event near the end of the fall term.

Boren Scholars

In the past fifteen years, seventeen students in the Chinese Program have received the prestigious David Boren Scholarship, a $20,000 award for study abroad given to approximately 150 American undergraduates by the National Security Education Program. Most of our students have elected to study for a year in the elite CET-Harbin Chinese language immersion program in Harbin China, one of the best programs for study abroad in China. In the past three years, Erika Cunningham, Anna Breigenzer, Phil Pitts, and Jackson Peven have all received the Boren and studied at CET-Harbin. Erika, a Mathematics and Chinese double degree student, is now working for the government in code security and counter-terrorism.

Breigenzer at the Forbidden City
Anna Breigenzer at the Forbidden City.

Anna Breigenzer, also a Mathematics and Chinese double degree, is working as an actuarial analyst. She writes about her time in Harbin on the Boren, “Studying abroad in China was easily the greatest experience of my college career (and of my life!). Like most students, when I first heard about the opportunity to study abroad, I was quick to come up with excuses (it’s too expensive, I don’t have time, I don’t want to miss out on a year at WSU, it sounds scary…). But now I am thankful that I went because it changed me for the better. It changed my perspective on life and the world and gave me knowledge and experience I couldn’t have gained elsewhere. My experience abroad taught me how to thrive outside my comfort zone. It taught me that hard work pays off, and has convinced me that if I can learn Chinese, I can do pretty much anything.”


Phil Pitts leading a seminar in Chinese
Phil Pitts leading a seminar in Chinese.

Phil Pitts is finishing a double degree in Computer Science and Chinese and plans to work in cyber security. He speaks glowingly of his time in China where “the program features a strong alumni network and CET Harbin graduates are highly sought after by English speaking companies operating in China. Studying at CET Harbin has given me the tools to work, travel, and socialize in China. The program was not easy, but the rewards were certainly worth it.” Pitts is currently preparing an application for the Schwarzman Scholars, a highly prestigious national scholarship modeled after the Rhodes Scholarship.


Jackson Peven in Chinese Class.
Jackson Peven in Chinese Class.

Jackson Peven, our most recent Boren recipient, is at CET Harbin now. He also plans a computer science and Chinese double degree. “The class material is meticulously chosen,” Peven writes in a email back to us, “with almost every word and phrase coming up again in later chapters and in the world at large. This encourages us further to focus on our coursework, as it is easy to see how many real world applications there are for what we are specifically learning. The 1-on-1 class is also tailor-made to your specifications, pairing learning Mandarin with exploring other interests. Some examples of topics are, “Chinese soft power,” “The history of Harbin Architecture,” and the one I have selected for the upcoming semester, “History of Cyber-relations between the US and China.”

Faculty Activites

We would like to congratulate Christopher Lupke on being awarded the Lifetime Membership Award for Excellence in Leadership and Service by the Rocky Mountain Modern Language Association.

In early November, Xinmin Liu took a trip to Shanghai to attend a Conference on Environmental Humanities hosted by Shanghai Normal University. As part of his External Mentor Research Grant, he attended this conference in the company of his external mentor, Dr. Scott Slovic at University of Idaho. At the conference, he led a panel on Refashioned Landscapes in China, actively participated in plenary sessions and held individual conferences with a group of PhD candidates doing their doctoral dissertations in this research field.

Xiao Kaiyu (left), Christopher Lupke (middle), Geng Zhanchun (right)
Xiao Kaiyu (left), Christopher Lupke (middle), Geng Zhanchun (right)

Christopher Lupke has been working on the poetry of the contemporary Chinese author Xiao Kaiyu 蕭開愚. Born in 1960, Xiao is a Professor of Chinese at Henan University where he teaches literature and writing courses. His avant-garde poetry mixes socially engaged subject matter with radical linguistic innovation in the vein of German Expressionism. Testing the bounds of referentiality and representation, Xiao challenges the reader and compels a participatory reading style. Xiao is fluent in German and has spent many years in Germany, and is influenced by Gottfried Benn, Paul Celan, Johannes Bobrowski, and others. Lupke has translated about 60 of his poems and this year has published his translations in New England ReviewE-RatioAsymptoteMichigan Quarterly ReviewEpiphany, and Eleven Eleven. He also has presented his studies and read his translations at the Rocky Mountain Modern Language Association (RMMLA) annual conference, the American Literary Translators Association (ALTA) annual conference, the University of South Carolina, the University of British Columbia, and The University of Alberta. This past academic year, Lupke held an appointment as Canada Fulbright Visiting Research Chair at the University of Calgary. He plans to eventually publish a collection of Xiao’s poetry, and in the coming year will present “Lyricizing (the) Public Space(s) in Xiao Kaiyu’s Poetry” at the MLA annual conference in Austin, TX, and a comparison of his work with that of German poets at the MLA International Symposium “Other Europes: Migrations, Translations, Transformations” in Düsseldorf and at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.

Saying Goodbye to Teacher Lin

Teacher Lin (middle) with some students.
Teacher Lin (middle) with some students.

Ms. Xiaotong Lin came to us in 2011 as the first instructor sent to WSU from the Confucius Institute of Washington State. The Confucius Institute provides us with a full-time instructor of Chinese free of charge, a great benefit for our program. Teacher Lin could not have been a better selection for us. She is a highly skilled and experienced teacher with 25 years of experience teaching in China, South Korea and Arizona State University. Teacher Lin has a BA and MA in Chinese from Sichuan University, one of the leading universities in China, where she is a full-time instructor.

Teacher Lin is extraordinarily beloved by the students in our program. She is a crack taskmaster with a heart of gold. The students speak glowingly of her effectiveness in the classroom, her dedication to the students outside class in such settings as our weekly Chinese Table, and her pleasant and nurturing temperament. She knows how to get the most out of her students.

Teacher Lin has been so successful that we have extended her stay at WSU twice. It is highly unusual for a Confucius Institute instructor to remain at one institution for five years. Unfortunately, everything must come to an end, and there are no more extensions possible! This will be Teacher Lin’s last year at WSU, and she will be greatly missed. The Chinese Program faculty is now working with the Confucius Institute to select the next instructor, whom we expect will arrive at WSU in August of 2016. The relationship with the Confucius Institute has been one of mutual benefit, with us getting resources we otherwise could not afford and the Confucius Institute getting an opportunity to promote the study of Chinese language and culture on our campus. We hope and expect it will be a highly productive relationship for many years to come.